Both teams have been preparing for the tournament in Scotland and it’s been an extra special time for men’s coach Clark Laidlaw.
“Obviously I’m a proud Scotsman, but really proud of this team, so to go there with the team and see a bit of history it was pretty cool.
“Preparation wise it was awesome. The school looked after us, it was outstanding. Training facilities were all good, but the way the men prepared and the way they went about their work was exciting. It’s put us in a great space this week to feel quite calm and relaxed as we build into the weekend.”
Eight players from last year’s silver medal-winning Olympics team are selected for Birmingham, joined by a number of fresh faces to the international sevens scene, including teenagers Caleb Tangitau and Che Clark. Laidlaw said the new guys have taken the whole experience in their stride.
“That’s probably why we selected them. We know they are quite calm customers. I’m sure they are nervous when they are in a room on their own and daydreaming about what’s to come, but from their preparation and the way they have gone about their business is really exciting.”
Laidlaw said the senior players have been guiding the team through the week well.
The New Zealand men’s Sevens side has a tough draw for pool play in Birmingham. Starting with Sri Lanka in their opening game, they then face Samoa and England. It’s a challenge Laidlaw and his side are well up for.
“We have a huge amount of respect for Samoa and the way they are playing we think they are a really dangerous team and could easily medal here if they get it right. So we are going to have to play really well to beat them.
“Then obviously England at home. There is a lot going on in their programme at the minute and I’m sure emotion will be high with not only playing at home but what’s to come with losing their Sevens programme. So, we are well aware of the challenges that will come.”
The Commonwealth Games build-up has been similar for the New Zealand women’s Sevens side who have been in Edinburgh. They had a couple of games against Scotland and experienced some of the Scottish culture.
Coach Cory Sweeney said there is a real edge in his side at the moment, with a lot of in-house, healthy competition.
“There is definitely some tension and edge in our environment and I’m sure that will translate into some good quality performances when we get to play other teams.”
The women’s side are also blooding new talent and Sweeney is delighted with the depth they have been able to build in their squad over the last year. This will be Jazmin Hotham’s first pinnacle event, having been a travelling reserve in Tokyo. But it’s also an extremely stable and experienced side.
“I think the purpose of any international programme is we keep growing our talent,” said Sweeney.
“We need to make sure that the young are pushing our older, more experienced players and then that pushes our experience to be better.
“We’ve seen some real growth in the last six months. The younger players, while they have been at pinnacle events, will play a much bigger role in this one because of the growth that they’ve shown.”
The New Zealand women have also got Sri Lanka in their pool, as well as Canada and England. Sweeney said it’s an interesting format in which they will play the top seed first.
“It does play on your mind a little bit, it’s different, but we have seen growth from Canada and England have been playing a lot over the last month or so. They are going to be really competitive, and we need to make sure that we start well so we can set up what would be a really tough crossover with either Fiji or Aussie if we go well.”
Both sides are looking to defend their titles, with New Zealand picking up double gold on the Gold Coast in 2018.
Proceedings kick off on Friday night NZT, with the women taking on Canada at 9.06pm from Coventry Stadium and then men following at 10.12pm against Sri Lanka.
See fixtures here and make sure you are following @NZSevens on social media for all updates.