Wales aiming high as Series climax approaches
As the HSBC Sevens World Series nears its European climax on British shores in Scotland and England in May, it will be the other of the home nations involved, Wales, looking to challenge for a top-five finish this season.
Paul John's side went quietly about its business in the first half of the season, reaching three of five Cup quarter finals, before bursting to prominence in Hong Kong by reaching a first ever Series Cup final.
The Welsh currently lie seventh in the Series standings, just nine points behind France and Kenya in joint-fifth, heading into the Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens on 4-5 May and the season-ending Marriott London Sevens on 11-12 May.
"We're seventh at the moment and we haven't finished above that in the last three years, so it would be nice to do that," said John.
"It's just a matter of us trying to maintain the momentum that we gained from Hong Kong, getting a squad who can push to get out of that group first and foremost and then see where that goes. I think by having a taste of what they had at the last two tournaments, the boys will be even more determined to get through again.
"We've got France, USA and Russia in Glasgow and USA have everything to play for because they're fighting with Scotland and a few others down in the bottom three positions"
At the final round of the Series at Twickenham, the core teams ranked 13th, 14th and 15th after Glasgow will effectively be relegated, leaving them needing to play off for three available core team places next season with Asian champions Hong Kong, Russia, Zimbabwe, Tonga and Georgia - a scenario every core team wishes to avoid.
Currently Scotland and USA are tied in joint-12th place, ensuring that the Americans will be a tougher than ever proposition in the Glasgow pools.
However, with 'home' advantage counting for the first time in the season, John and his Welsh players are looking forward to the relatively short trips up to Glasgow and down the M4 to London.
"It's the first tournament that we'll be playing without jet lag and we've got to take advantage of having it as close as it is, so the next three weeks preparation are very important..
Inevitably, an up-turn in Welsh form is also prompting renewed questioning about a Rugby World Cup Sevens title defence in Moscow in June. However, John insists that the Series remains the focus for the time being.
"It's (the World Cup) in the back of our minds, in our planning, but the main part of the build-up will come after these two tournaments. But training is good, and we have competition for places which is excellent," added John.
"To play in a World Cup Sevens is something that only comes along once every four years and how long does a Sevens career last? There are a few people pushing for their second World Cup, but more pushing for their first and competition for places makes it a stronger squad."