Changing of the guard
Sevens powerhouses New Zealand and Fiji both have new coaches
Ever since the inception of the HSBC World Sevens Series, two teams have dominated proceedings with Fiji and New Zealand winning a combined 15 titles from the last 17 seasons.
For 22 years New Zealand were led by Gordon Tietjens, but for the very first time they will arrive at the Dubai Sevens next month without their inspirational leader.
Tietjens left the Kiwis in September to take over the Samoan team, with the All Blacks being led temporarily by Scott Waldrom and Tomasi Cama. New head coach Clark Laidlaw will take charge of the side from June 1, 2017.
Meanwhile, Fiji will also have a new coach in Gareth Baber following Ben Ryan’s decision to step down after leading the Pacific Islanders to Olympic gold in Rio.
Fiji claimed the title in Dubai last year and in 2013, while New Zealand are six-time winners in the UAE.
But after appointing new coaches, former New Zealand sevens captain Karl Te Nana believes a new champion could emerge on December 3.
“It’ll be interesting to see in Dubai how the players react to the new coaches because they would have to start afresh again and try to put their marks on their teams,” he told the Straits Times.
“The teams who haven’t changed their coaches are probably going to have a leg up on the others.”
One team who could prove a threat in Dubai are England, who lost in last year’s final to Fiji.
They have kept head coach Simon Amor and will look to make an early statement having been drawn in the same group as New Zealand, Russia and Samoa.
England have triumphed on four occasions in Dubai, with their last success coming in 2011.