New wave of NZ stars
With a 14th series about to begin this weekend at the Gold Coast Sevens, a very different All Black Sevens squad is looking to kick-start their defence.
At the 2012 Marriott London Sevens just a few short months ago, DJ Forbes lifted New Zealand Sevens' 10th World Series title in 13 years.
With a 14th series about to begin this weekend at the Gold Coast Sevens, a very different All Black Sevens squad is looking to kick-start that defence.
Coach Gordon Tietjens has always preached the importance of starting well in the series, and seldom have the kiwis not done that.
Captain Forbes knows it will be difficult with such a young side boasting six debutants, but he is also relishing the challenge of living up to the team's new 'All Blacks' billing.
"Titch always reminds us that to be good on the series we have to do well at the start," said Forbes, who captained the side to the Gold Coast Sevens final in 2011, where they lost 26-12 to Fiji.
"It might be a blessing in disguise having one tournament, knowing we don't have to get ready for another tournament so we can just go all out.
"It is back to the drawing board, though. We are here like everyone else to win another series."
New Zealand boast six youngsters players in their squad and, unlike many of the other 15 core teams, have not participated in any tournaments in preparation for this weekend.
Having qualified for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow on the strength of their performance at the 2009 RWC Sevens in Dubai, New Zealand did not participate at the Oceania Sevens, the regional qualifier.
"It is good to be back on the series but we do have a lot of work to do," added Forbes.
"We haven't played any tournaments like some of the other teams so it will be a good test to see where we are at at the weekend.
"Titch is finding new talent across the board. We have some new young boys out of school, and some have played invitational tournaments before so the guys on the circuit may have seen them before.
"There is a lot of exciting talent, young boys, ones who are good in the air. So we have a good mix of guys who we want to work on with some of our key areas and hopefully we can show that at the weekend.
"But we believe in the boys and what they are doing, with the whole prospect of playing in the Olympics too a few of our players have put their hands up.
"Lote [Raikabula] and Mark [Jackman] stood aside from the ITM Cup to focus on getting their bodies right for a big World Series. There are good things to come."
New Zealand face matches against USA, Canada and South Africa on Day One of the tournament on their trans-Tasman rivals' home soil - something that adds an extra dimension to the tournament for New Zealand.
"Just looking at our pool, it is a hard one and we are not taking anything for granted," added Forbes.
"There is that old rivalry coming across the ditch but we use that to get up and for motivation. There will be fans cheering us, those who have made the travel, but there will also be the hardcore Aussie fans who will be hoping we trip up so we will be going all out and using whatever motivation we can to get up for the weekend."