Double gold medal at the Commonwealth Games before the 7-a-side World Cup

A feast of medals is set for New Zealand’s hungry sevens over the next six weeks, starting with the Commonwealth Games.

In the eight-month cold between the Tokyo Olympics and a return to the international circuit in April due to New Zealand border restrictions, Birmingham 2022 is shaping up to be an ideal way to prepare for the World Cup in Cape in September.

But that doesn’t mean they’re getting ahead and having fun defending their World Cup crowns just yet.

Four years after the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens clinched gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, they are determined to repeat at Coventry Stadium in the coming days.

New Zealand simply dominated rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games, winning six of the possible seven gold medals.

The Black Ferns are one of the after debut women’s Sevens in 2018, while the Kiwi men won four consecutive gold medals between 1998 and 2010, before South Africa beat them in Glasgow in 2014.

The Black Ferns Sevens try to defend their gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

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The Black Ferns Sevens try to defend their gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Their triumphs four years ago accounted for two of New Zealand’s 15 gold medals on the Gold Coast, and are expected to help New Zealand get off to a fast start in Birmingham.

Armed with speedster Michaela Blyde and led by captain Sarah Hirini, Black Ferns coach Cory Sweeney’s squad includes 11 players from the triumphant squad of 2018.

That includes Kelly Brazier, whose remarkable 80m try against Australia in extra time four years ago sealed gold.

The Aussies are expected to be the Kiwis’ toughest opponent again, that’s clear after recent results between the rivals since the Black Ferns’ return to the World Tour.

Denied the Langford title in their return tournament in May, after the Aussies scored more than a minute after the whistle to clinch their first seven-man World Tour crown since 2018, the Kiwis came from behind to beat Australia and win the Toulouse title the same month.

It was their first title in the women’s series since February 2020 (Sydney), shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic gnawed and spat out the playing calendar, and they warmed up for the Commonwealth Games by winning the Oceania Super Sevens title in Pukekohe last month.

The All Blacks Sevens have done the same, but have failed to win on the World Tour in all four tournaments since their return.

New Zealand's Scott Curry had a try in the men's sevens Olympic final in Tokyo last year.

JOHN COWPLAND/Photosport

New Zealand’s Scott Curry had a try in the men’s sevens Olympic final in Tokyo last year.

They have finished runners-up twice, including to Fiji in Singapore and Australia in London in May.

Olympic champions Fiji, Australia, South Africa and England are their biggest threats.

Coach Clark Laidlaw’s squad includes eight players from last year’s silver medal-winning Olympic team in Tokyo, and has been bolstered by the return of captain Sam Dickson.

All Blacks Sevens

Leroy Carter, Che Clark, Dylan Collier, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson (captain), Moses Leo, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Sione Molia, Tone Ng Shiu, Akuila Rokolisoa, Caleb Tangitau, Regan Ware, Joe Webber. Traveling Reserves: Amanaki Nicole, Roderick Solo. Non-roving reserves: Brady Rush, Kurt Baker, Trael O’Flaherty-Joass, Tim Mikkelson.

Black Ferns Sevens

Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Sarah Hirini (captain), Stacey Fluhler, Jazmin Hotham, Shiray Kaka, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison, Portia Woodman. Traveling Reserves: Terina Te Tamaki and Mahina Paul. Non-roving reserves: Shakira Baker, Ruby Tui, Manaia Nuku, Tysha Ikenasio.

Group matches

All Blacks Sevens: vs Sri Lanka (Friday, 11.12pm), vs Samoa (Saturday, 8.04am), vs England (Saturday, 11.34pm)

Black Ferns Sevens: vs Canada, (Friday, 10:06 p.m.), vs Sri Lanka (Saturday, 6:14 a.m.), vs England (Saturday, 10:06 p.m.)

Prediction

Gold for the Black Ferns after another thriller against the Aussies.

But Fiji, whose squad includes six players who helped rob the All Blacks Sevens of gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year, will once again be too hot for New Zealand in the decider.

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