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Friday, December 23, 2005


IRB Sevens: Boks can avenge Sevens defeat

December 22 2005 at 09:32AM

The pools and schedules for the third and fourth events in this season's International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series - the New Zealand International Sevens and the USA Sevens - were announced on Wednesday.

Wellington hosts New Zealand, who swept all before them in the first two events last year to lay the foundations for a sixth IRB Sevens title, but this season Fiji go into the Wellington event at the top of the standings table and in fine form, having won one final and lost the other in the first two events of the season. England, meanwhile, top the pools on the strength of the results of the last six tournaments and face Australia, Scotland and Papua New Guinea in pool A.

Fiji head pool B, in which they will face France, Canada and Niue, while hosts New Zealand are seeded third and face a tough test in Samoa, Kenya and the Cook Islands in pool C. Coach Gordon Tietjens faces one of his greatest challenges as he looks to rebuild the side after early season disappointment, and defend the overall IRB Sevens crown.

Pool D is topped by fourth seeds South Africa, who will face Argentina, who beat the Boks in the semifinals of the George event earlier this month plus Tonga and USA. The New Zealand leg of the tour takes place on February 3-4.

Pool D is topped by fourth seeds South Africa
The seedings do not change for the US showpiece at the Home Depot Centre in Los Angeles on February 11-12, but the 16 sides do; Uruguay, Mexico and a combined West Indies side replace Pacific Islanders Niue, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea. In Los Angeles, England again top pool A and face France, Kenya and hosts US, while pool B pits Scotland and Uruguay against fancied Fiji and Argentina, who will battle out a repeat of the George final, won by Waisale Serevi's Fiji.

Pool C sees newcomers West Indies square up to a trio of Oceania heavyweights; New Zealand and Australia will resume their rivalry, and Tonga are never to be counted out in the Sevens game, and pool D is again topped by South Africa, who face Samoa - so impressive in the first two events of the season - as well as Canada and 2004's LA darlings Mexico.

IRB Tournaments Manager Beth Coalter said: "The IRB Sevens season got off to a fantastic start in Dubai and George, with so many teams truly competitive.

"Fiji look back near their best and England's recent consistency means they're top seeds for these two events.

"But it's going to be fascinating to see how New Zealand respond in front of their home crowd, and then in Los Angeles where they defend their title.

"I think you'd have to be very brave to count them out, but the fact that so may teams are in contention is fantastic for the series and fantastic for Sevens." - Sapa

This article was originally published on page 26 of The Mercury on December 22, 2005
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