Black Ferns stalwart Ruby Tui with fans (Photo credit: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby)
Kirikiriroa/Hamilton has turned on the sunshine yet again for the World Sevens Series, with fans set to descend on FMG Stadium Waikato for two days of rugby and partying. As well as being a popular summer event in the city, it’s aslo an historic weekend for the women’s game. It will see 12 international women’s teams play their first ever world series event in New Zealand.
Among those, of course, are reigning world champions the Black Ferns. They played in an unofficial four team tournament last year at FMG Stadium Waikato, and the massive support they received meant that making Hamilton an official women’s venue was a no-brainer.
Captain Sarah Hirini was excited about the prospect of playing in front of their home fans.
“This weekend is going to be huge” she told World Rugby.
“A couple of our girls actually live here in Hamilton so they’re going to have all their family here but we’ve talked a lot about being able to have that home advantage. Travel for us is massive so just having an hour and a half journey to get here has put us in good stead going into this weekend.”
The Black Ferns Sevens are in Pool A, playing China and Fiji today, then a crucial match against England tomorrow morning.
The All Blacks Sevens are also looking forward to playing in the Waikato this weekend.
“We get to play all around the world, but you only get one home tournament and we’re lucky enough to get our own,” said captain Tim Mikkelson.
“We can take a lot of confidence from the last two tournaments. We’ve been training really hard the last couple of weeks and we’ve got a couple of new boys coming in who will hopefully lift the level again. It would be everything to win this tournament – we’ll have our friends and family in the stands so we really want it to be something special.”
Also drawn in Pool A, New Zealand will play Wales and last season’s runners-up USA on Saturday before their final pool game against Scotland on Sunday.
Hamilton Sevens womens pools:
Pool A: New Zealand, Fiji, England, China
Pool B: Australia, USA, Russia, Brazil
Pool C: France, Spain, Canada, Ireland
Pool A: New Zealand, Scotland, USA, Wales
Pool B: South Africa, Kenya, England, Japan
Pool C: France, Ireland, Canada, Spain
Pool D: Fiji, Argentina, Australia, Samoa
NZ games, day one:
Black Ferns: 11:20am v China, 16:58 v England
All Blacks Sevens: 14:31 v Wales, 20:33 v USA