With women’s and men’s tournaments taking place in a combined event for the first time in Hamilton, both home teams will enter the competition high in confidence following victories at the previous round in Cape Town.
The Black Ferns Sevens will be eager to impress playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in a HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event. Hamilton becomes the 17th host since the women’s series began in 2012-13 and is the fourth round of the current series, which New Zealand lead following impressive back-to-back victories in Dubai and Cape Town in December.
The pool draw for the women’s event sees hosts and reigning series champions New Zealand face Fiji, England and invitational team China in Pool A. Olympic champions Australia who are placed second in the series standings will take on third-placed USA, Russia and newly promoted Brazil in Pool B.
Pool C will get the action under way in Hamilton as France face Spain at 09:30 (local time GMT+13) on Saturday, 25 January, followed by Canada versus Ireland. The Black Ferns Sevens first take to the pitch against China, who recently qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at 11:20 on the first day of competition.
The men’s event sees the hosts and current joint series leaders the All Blacks Sevens drawn with Scotland, USA and Wales in Pool A. Fellow joint series leaders South Africa, who were victorious in Dubai, will take on Kenya, England and invitational team Japan in Pool B.
Third placed France will be looking to keep their strong run of form going as they face Ireland, Canada and Spain in Pool C, while reigning Olympic and Series champions Fiji will play Argentina, Australia and Samoa in Pool D.
The men’s competition gets under way with Ireland versus Canada at 11:57 on Saturday, 25 January while New Zealand first take to the field against Wales at 14:31 on day one of the competition.
Fiji will be aiming to return to the form that saw them crowned HSBC New Zealand Sevens champions in 2019 when they overcame USA in the final. Hosts New Zealand claimed the bronze medal on home soil.
Looking ahead to the action in Hamilton, Black Ferns Sevens co-coach Allan Bunting said: “Last year was a great occasion, but to play in a world series event on home soil for the first time, alongside the men, is something the team has been looking forward to for a long time. It’s going to be incredibly special and we can’t wait.”
All Blacks Sevens head coach Clark Laidlaw said: “The players can’t wait to get out on the field at FMG Stadium Waikato and play in front of a big home crowd.”
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 represents the beginning of a new era for rugby sevens with a record six combined men’s and women’s events and the number of women’s tournaments increasing to eight, with the men’s again being contested across 10 rounds.
The series also forms a crucial part of Olympic preparation for the teams as rugby sevens will take centre stage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with the competition taking place at the Tokyo Stadium from 27 July-1 August.
Eleven men’s and 10 women’s teams have qualified for Tokyo 2020 so far with last season’s world series acting as the principal route for qualification with the top four teams in the men’s and women’s competitions automatically qualifying. Only three places remain to be confirmed – one men’s and two women’s – with the global repechage tournament in June 2020 determining which teams will occupy the final spots.