Preview: 2015 National Sevens
James Mortimer 16 Jan 2015 Getty Images
With the Olympics looming in a manner no team can ignore, the cream of local talent will converge on Rotorua International Stadium, underlining New Zealand’s depth in the game.
While the next generation of sevens stars will be trying to make their mark under the watchful gaze of national men’s and women’s coaches Gordon Tietjens and Sean Horan, both have also released numerous All Blacks Sevens and New Zealand Women’s Sevens players, to ensure fans will be able to enjoy seeing plenty of seasoned internationals on show over the two days.
The first ever national sevens competition was held a year before Hong Kong began staging their famous event, with the title claimed by Marlborough in the first two years.
The region was the power at the time, with their back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976 fine additions to their historic reign in 1973 when they held the Ranfurly Shield.
Staged in Auckland and Christchurch the first two years, the tournament moved to Blenheim in 1977, signalling the beginning of three straight crowns for Manawatu.
It wasn’t until 1980 that a member of the ‘big five’ won, with Auckland taking the first of what are now 11 crowns; the record for the men’s division.
Indeed, the team’s success has been matched by others in the North Island, with Wellington now the defending champions.
You have to look back to 1993 to see the last time the South Island tasted success, when Canterbury lifted the trophy.
This year the defending champions make the trip north from the capital buttressed with the inclusion of All Blacks Sevens regulars Ambrose Curtis and Lote Raikabula and new cap Murphy Taramai.
Counties Manukau, Manawatu and Otago will also benefit from the inclusion of Sevens World Series regulars.
The Steelers will be led by Sherwin Stowers, while Manawatu are coached by All Blacks Sevens veteran Tomasi Cama who is also expected to pull on his boots, along with new cap Jordan Bunce, son of All Blacks legend Frank Bunce.
Tutu Tairea will lead Auckland and has Rocky Khan, Jeremy Innes and Kali Hala as his lieutenants, while youngster Mitchell Karpik and 17-year-old Rieko Ioane have also been included.
The men’s Turbos will be hoping to emulate the women’s team who are defending and two-time champions (winners in 2013 and 2014).
Manawatu lead the ledger alongside Auckland with two trophies - while Canterbury, Bay of Plenty and Wellington have won a title apiece.
At 2pm there will be an opening ceremony with all teams taking part in the traditional march around the ground, which will be followed by a special ‘Legends’ game.
All Blacks Sevens veterans DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson will be pulling on their boots alongside past stars of the game including Karl Te Nana, Brad Fleming, Craig De Goldi, Dallas Seymour, Orene As’I and Rico Gear.
Unions are still in the process of confirming their final squads, with 16 mens and 10 women’s teams taking part – these will be posted on allblacks.com as they become available.
The competing sides had to undergo a three stage qualification process (the Southern, Central and Northern regionals).
Canterbury (Southern), Taranaki (Central) and Counties Manukau (Northern) claimed the titles in the men’s side of the draw while on the women’s side, 2014 national champions Manawatu took out the central crown. Canterbury (Southern) and Waikato (Northern) to round out the leading qualifiers.
There will be plenty of off field action, with children's entertainment, players signing autographs and special tents including an ACC water station. Tickets start at $5 and a whole family can see the day's action for $35.
Daily wraps will be posted online while scores and images will be posted on our Sevens Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
For full draw details, click here.
SKY Sport will broadcast both days live.
Pool A: Taranaki, Tasman, Northland, Horowhenua Kapiti
Pool B: Counties Manukau, Canterbury, Bay of Plenty, South Canterbury
Pool C: Manawatu, Auckland, Otago, Mid Canterbury
Pool D: Waikato, Wellington, Wairarapa Bush, North Harbour
Pool A: Manawatu, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Taranaki, Canterbury
Pool B: Waikato, Auckland, Otago, Counties Manukau, Southland
ROLL OF HONOUR
1975 Marlborough Auckland
1976 Marlborough Christchurch
1977 Manawatu Blenheim
1978 Manawatu Hamilton
1979 Manawatu Palmerston North
1980 Auckland Palmerston North
1981 Taranaki Palmerston North
1982 Taranaki Feilding
1983 Auckland Feilding
1984 Auckland Feilding
1985 Counties Feilding
1986 North Harbour Feilding
1987 North Harbour Christchurch
1988 Auckland Pukekohe
1989 Auckland Palmerston North
1990 Canterbury Palmerston North
1991 Auckland Palmerston North
1992 North Harbour Palmerston North
1993 Canterbury Palmerston North
1994 Counties Palmerston North
1995 Counties Palmerston North
1996 Waikato Palmerston North
1996 Waikato Palmerston North
1997 Waikato Rotorua
1998 Waikato Rotorua
1999 North Harbour Palmerston North
2000 North Harbour Palmerston North
2001 North Harbour Palmerston North
2002 Wellington Palmerston North
2003 No event
2004 North Harbour Queenstown
2005 Auckland Queenstown
2006 Auckland Queenstown
2007 Auckland Queenstown
2008 Auckland Queenstown
2009 North Harbour Queenstown
2010 Waikato Queenstown
2011 Auckland Queenstown
2012 Auckland Queenstown
2013 Taranaki Queenstown
2014 Wellington Rotorua