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Sevens opponents much more professional

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Sportal.co.nz     17 Mar 2014     Getty Images

Long-serving All Blacks Sevens player Tim Mikkelson, who is playing in his 46th tournament in Japan and who is six tries short of breaking into the Top 10 all-time try scorers at 136 tries, said at one stage many of the teams taking part in the Sevens were semi-professional, but with Olympic medals up for grabs that scene had changed significantly.

And one of those sides to have prospered under increased funding is the Canadian team which is in New Zealand's pool in Japan.

Mikkelson continued to maintain the team mantra that every game is a final so far as New Zealand was concerned and that it would be quite a tough pool with Wales and Portugal also in New Zealand's section.

It was a case of treating every team with respect in the knowledge that anyone is capable of upsets. Fiji had been eliminated from the running in recent tournaments in upset results.

However, South Africa is the main concern for New Zealand. They are only two points behind on the points table. They were always a tough opponent and were developing similar types of players to the All Blacks Sevens.

This latest excursion involves Japan and Hong Kong on successive weekends. They were two totally different tournaments, he said.

"Japan is quite often wet and cold and then you go to Hong Kong which can be very humid," Mikkelson said.

Hong Kong, especially, had a rich tradition and was played on a big ground with a big crowd, but both tournament required the same demands of the New Zealanders.

While the side would be without Tomasi Cama and Lote Raikabula there was some exciting young talent in the side which augured well for New Zealand's future, and all the tournaments were important stepping stones in the All Blacks Sevens staying at the head of the field, he said.