NZ & Samoa looking to pull away in Hong Kong

Tournament leader New Zealand and in-form Samoa will look to break clear of the competition when the Hong Kong Sevens, the sevens world series’ biggest tournament, starts Friday.

New Zealand and Samoa are separated by just two points heading into the final three tournaments with 30 points – the most all season – up for grabs in the Hong Kong. Fiji and Australia are in third and fourth place.

New Zealand, which has won eight of the 10 series titles since the tour’s launch in 1999, got off to a strong start this season, winning at the first two stops in Dubai and South Africa. But Samoa, seeking its first series title, has dominated since then.

After a runner-up finish to Fiji in Wellington, Samoa clinched the last two tournaments in Las Vegas and at Adelaide last weekend.

The Kiwis lost to Samoa in the Las Vegas final and the Adelaide quarterfinals. They have also been bogged down with injuries – star winger Sherwin Stowers injured his ankle in Las Vegas and Lote Raikabula hurt a biceps tendon during practice for Adelaide.

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize about sevens rugby is that you may lose one or two influential players through injury … It’s just about half your team. It makes a huge difference,” New Zealand Gordon Tietjens said.

But Tietjens remained confident, noting his side only narrowly lost to Samoa 19-24 in overtime at Adelaide.

“I’m certainly not too concerned. It’s just the nature of sevens rugby now,” he said.


“On any given day it just depends on whether you can go out there and secure your opportunities.”

Air quality could also play a factor in this crowded southern Chinese financial hub of 7 million people, with the city recording its highest air pollution levels since it started taking measurements in 1998, largely due to sandstorms in northern China that shifted south.

Readings have tapered off since Monday, clearing the way for the tournament to go ahead.

This will also be the first edition of the Hong Kong sevens – the game’s most prestigious tournament – since the sevens rugby was voted an Olympic sport in October.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is expected to attend the event, seeking a preview of what to expect when sevens makes its debut at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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