Battle at the top intensifies in Tokyo

(IRB.COM) Thursday 28 March 2013
 
 Battle at the top intensifies in Tokyo
Samoa lost in the Tokyo Sevens final in 2012

Ahead of this weekend's Tokyo Sevens, the seventh round of the HSBC Sevens World Series, New Zealand sit top of the Series standings on 113 points.

Gordon Tietjens' side are 25 points ahead of last week's champions Fiji in second place, and a further four ahead of Samoa who are third.

Despite having won just one Cup this season, and one less than Fiji, New Zealand are the only side to have successfully reached every Cup quarter final this season, and appeared in four of the six finals.

It is that consistency that sees them ahead at the top, and on course to win an 11th World Series title, although captain DJ Forbes 

"I think some other countries target certain tournaments, but for us the onus to win the Series is always the same," said Forbes.

"A big key for us is consistency and a lot of that is down to Gordon Tietjens. When we can get our Cup wins it is exciting, but the ultimate goal for us is to keep or extend our lead in the Series.

"I have been in situations where others have clawed it back in the end though. This is probably the biggest lead we have had but there are still three tournaments to go and although I would love to say it is ours you never know what might happen and we never take anything for granted. We need to do well here to eliminate any chance of countries taking it away from us."

Battle for second

Fiji and Samoa may well be looking over the shoulders at South Africa, who are a further six points behind Samoa rather than ahead, though, as they look to build momentum ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June.

"We are focusing their [the boys'] minds for this weekend and we need to maintain our position now," said Samoa coach Faamoni Lalomilo.

"I don't think we have any chance to catch up on New Zealand, it is over 20 points. It is a battle between us, Fiji and South Africa for second now, so the chance is there to move up or down. We know we can move to second if we play well.

"I try my best to finish in second position, not only for the new faces, but to put us in second place ahead of the World Cup."

However, if Fiji can win a third Cup title this season in Tokyo, they will close the gap on Tietjens' side. But winning back to back tournaments has become harder than ever before on the most competitive Series to date.

"It is true it is hard to win two in a row," added Fiji coach Alifereti Dere.

"It happened to use last year when we won in Hong Kong and then came here and went into the Plate. We will see what we can do to improve our performance from then, it is about adjusting well.

"It is important for us to maintain our position at this moment too because we were second last year overall and it is important for us to stay consistent."