The stage is set for the National Sevens tournament this weekend.
Sixteen men’s teams and 12 women’s teams will again compete in the two-day tournament which kicks off at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday.
The teams are seeded in four men’s and three women’s pools, having qualified from the three zone tournaments in early December.
In the men’s draw, defending champions Counties Manukau is the top seed and leads pool A. South Island winners Tasman and Central winners Wellington headline Pool C Northern runners-up Bay of Plenty assume top billing in Pool B, while beaten Central finalists Manawatu are top seeds in Pool D.
In the Women’s draw, Pool A features Northern and Southern winners Waikato and Canterbury, while Central champions Manawatu are in Pool B.
Many of the leading contenders played in the Bay of Plenty tournament last weekend, taken out by the Waikato men and Manawatu women respectively – both defending their BoP titles.
Counties Manukau – both men and women - are the defending national tournament champions, with the Steelers gunning for a three-peat of titles this weekend.
Last year the Steelers defended their national crown by beating Waikato 14-7 in the Men’s tournament final, while the Heat beat 2016 champions Manawatu 24-17 in the women’s final with Portia Woodman crossing for a hat-trick.
Three Heartland provinces will be in action with the bigger provincial unions too, with Wanganui and Mid Canterbury lining up in the Men’s competition and Poverty Bay hoping to cause an upset or two on the Women’s side of the draw.
The winner of the Joe Taiwi Memoral Trophy for Men’s Player of the Tournament last year was presented to Tasman’s Andrew Knewstubb, while Bay of Plenty’s Kelly Brazier was the Anna Richards Trophy winner as the Women’s Player of the Tournament.
The first matches on Saturday get underway on fields one and two at 10.05am, while the last games of the day are scheduled to kick-off at 5.35pm. Day two runs from 10.05am with the Men’s Bowl and Women’s quarter-finals, leading up to the Women’s Cup final at 5.35pm and the Men’s Cup decider at 6.00pm.
What: 2018 National Sevens
When: Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 January
Where: Rotorua International Stadium
Time: From 10.05am both days
Entry Fee: $15 Adult, $5 Child under 15, Under 5 Free, Family Tickets $35 (2A and up to 3C)
Coverage: See below for the day one draw. Check social media feeds for opening day results, tournament round-up on this website Sunday
Pool A: Counties Manukau, Taranaki, Waikato, Wanganui
Pool B: Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Canterbury, Mid Canterbury
Pool C: Wellington, Tasman, Northland, Southland
Pool D: Manawatu, North Harbour, Hawke’s Bay, Otago
Pool A: Waikato, Canterbury, Otago, Poverty Bay
Pool B: Manawatu, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, North Harbour
Pool C: Auckland, Counties Manukau, Hawke’s Bay, Southland
Men’s games Field 1:
10.05am: Counties Manukau v Wanganui
10.25am: Taranaki v Waikato
10.45am: Bay of Plenty v Mid Canterbury
11.05am: Auckland v Canterbury
11.45am: Tasman v Northland
12.05pm: Manawatu v Otago
12.25pm: North Harbour v Hawke’s Bay
3.15pm: Counties Manukau v Taranaki
3.35pm: Waikato v Wanganui
3.55pm: Bay of Plenty v Auckland
4.15pm: Canterbury v Mid Canterbury
4.35pm: Wellington v Tasman
4.55pm: Northland v Southland
5.15pm: Hawke’s Bay v Otago
5.35pm: Manawatu v North Harbour
Men’s games Field 2:
12.25pm: Counties Manukau v Waikato
12.45pm: Taranaki v Wanganui
1.05pm: Bay of Plenty v Canterbury
1.25pm: Auckland v Mid Canterbury
1.45pm: Wellington v Northland
2.35pm: Tasman v Southland
2.55pm: North Harbour v Otago
3.15pm: Manawatu v Hawke’s Bay
Women’s games Field 1:
12.45pm: Auckland v Hawke’s Bay
1.05pm: Counties Manukau v Southland
1.25pm: Manawatu v Wellington
1.45pm: Bay of Plenty v North Harbour
2.35pm: Waikato v Otago
2.55pm: Canterbury v Poverty Bay
Women’s games Field 2:
10.05am: Auckland v Southland
10.25am: Counties Manukau v Hawke’s Bay
10.45am: Manawatu v North Harbour
11.05am: Bay of Plenty v Wellington
11.25am: Waikato v Poverty Bay
11.45am: Canterbury v Otago
3.55pm: Auckland v Counties Manukau
4.15pm: Hawke’s Bay v Southland
4.35pm: Manawatu v Bay of Plenty
4.55pm: Wellington v North Harbour
5.15pm: Waikato v Canterbury
5.35pm: Otago v Poverty Bay
Former Japan Sevens international Leon Ellison will captain the Wellington Men's side, in the absence of Hayden Schrijvers who ruptured his ACL last weekend at the BoP Mount Maunganui Sevens tournament. The team has also lost Varani Komaisavai to a torn hamstring. Wellington were beaten by Canterbury in the Plate semi-final at the BoP tournament.
The Wellington Men’s team (by jersey number) is:
2. Nash Fiso-Vaelei
3. Losi Filipo
4. Esi Komaisavai
5. Leon Ellison
6. Luke Bowden
7. Levi Harmon
8. Paddy Hughes
9. Ryan Setefano
10. Daniel Schrijvers
11. Romu Senileba
12. Sione Ma’u
13. Dale Sabaggh
The Wellington Women’s squad have also lost several players to injury and with others still recovering from surgery. They have had to call in two loan players, these being Gayle Broughton and Danielle Paenga. The team is captained by Kat Simpkins.
Nevertheless, they finished level with Auckland on wins but had a much better points differential so finished second behind Manawatu at last weekend’s BoP tournament.
The Wellington Women’s team (by jersey number) is:
1. Jane Bryce
2. Dhys Faleafaga
4. Joanah Ngan-Woo
6. Aimee Sutorius
7. Marcelle Parkes
9. Acacia Te Iwimate
10. Gayle Broughton
11. Rejieli Uluinavau
12. Grace Surridge
13. Monica Tagoai
14. Danielle Paenga
15. Katarina Simpkins