Preview: LA Sevens
WORLD SERIES ROUND FIVE: The global circus returns to Los Angeles this weekend for two days of non-stop action.
The hosts, the United States, will be looking to win their third straight title on home soil – after victories at both the 2018 and 2019 events in Las Vegas.
“We all know that every tournament is a new tournament and every game is a new game,” United States captain Madison Hughes said.
“Nothing that’s happened in the past guarantees anything, but it would be pretty cool to be able to win three home tournaments in a row.
“The last few years have been magical weekends but now we’ve got to go out there and see if we can do it again.”
As the fifth round of the World Series, the LA Sevens is the largest rugby event in the United States – a country where the game is experiencing exponential growth with the World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco attracting a record attendance for a rugby event in the United States of over 100,000 fans.
Series leaders New Zealand can’t wait to get things underway at this exciting new tournament with captain Tim Mikkelson commenting that fans can expect some exciting games this weekend.
“Our pool game against England is going to be huge,” Mikkelson said, adding: “They’ve got pace to burn all over the field.
“They’ve got Dan Norton out wide who has scored the most tries ever, so we’ve got to contain him and they’ve got a lot of big boys up front who are pretty physical so we’ve been working hard on our defence this week.
“If we can bring that into play this weekend, I think we’ll be in with a good chance.”
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New Zealand, after wins in Cape Town and Hamilton, are on 76 points.
They are followed by South Africa – a win in Dubai and runners-up spot in Cape Town and Sydney.
France (56), England (54) and Fiji (53) make up the top five.
For the BlitzBoks will be looking to make it a special occasion for veteran Werner Kok, who will join an illustrious group of Springbok Sevens players when he appears in his 50th World Series tournament.
He joins Justin Geduld, Branco du Preez, Chris Dry, Cecil Afrika, Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown and Philip Snyman in the half-ton club.
For the popular Nelspruit native, it will be a special feeling that he will treasure and something he did not think of when he debuted as a BlitzBok for the very first time way back in London in 2013.
“It was not something I ever thought would happen, so it is going to be a great feeling, no doubt,” said Kok”.
“I have shared some amazing things with this squad and to hit 50 tournaments with them is a very rewarding feeling.
“It will also be a bit emotional for me knowing that I am leaving them at the end of the World Series, but for now, I just want to go out there and enjoy the feeling of being a BlitzBok alongside these fantastic players.”
Kok will be leaving the sevens programme at the end of the current season to join the Sharks, and he treasures every opportunity in the BlitzBok jersey, which he has worn in 249 matches so far.
Should he get game time against Kenya on Saturday, he will reach his 250th match, and he can’t wait.
“It will be pretty amazing I am sure. I still recall my very first match for the BlitzBoks. I came off the bench against France in London and my first act was to defend, but the guy stepped me blind,” Kok recalls with a laugh.
“Luckily I could work back and then won the turn-over two phases later. My first start was at the same tournament, in the quarter-finals against England.”
Play is split across two days – with all pool games taking place on Saturday, February 29, before the knock-out competition begins on Sunday, March 1.
(Kick-off is local time – GMT minus eight hours)
Saturday, February 29
New Zealand v Wales – 19.45
England v Spain – 20.07
Argentina v France – 10.29
Fiji v South Korea – 10.51
Ireland v Canada – 11.13
South Africa v Kenya – 11.35
Australia v Scotland – 11.57
United States v Samoa – 12.19
New Zealand v Spain – 12.41
England v Wales – 13.03
Argentina v South Korea – 13.25
Fiji v France – 13.47
Ireland v Kenya – 14.31
South Africa v Canada – 14.53
Australia v Samoa – 15.15
United States v Scotland – 15.37
Wales v Spain – 15.59
England v New Zealand – 16.21
France v South Korea – 16.43
Fiji v Argentina – 17.05
Canada v Kenya – 18.35
South Africa v Ireland – 19.05
Scotland v Samoa – 19.35
United States v Australia – 20.03
Preview by @WorldRugby7s