Wales set the bar high
Coach Paul John is hoping the building blocks his side have put in place for the IRB Sevens World Series will reinforce Wales' hopes.
Head coach Paul John is hoping the building blocks his side have put in place for the IRB Sevens World Series after three completed rounds will reinforce Wales' hopes for the next two rounds when the circuit reconvenes for the New Zealand leg in February.
Wales secured two top-five finishes in the most recent rounds held in Dubai and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, but as the Sevens jamboree heads towards Wellington and Las Vegas for the opening rounds in 2013, John insists his side will not be resting on their laurels and is demanding his squad continues to build on the solid foundations they have already built.
En route to picking up the Plate final silverware in both Dubai and Port Elizabeth, Wales defeated the mighty Fijians twice and gave series leaders New Zealand a major scare before falling just short in the Airline Dubai Sevens.
New Zealand go into the New Year as leaders in the overall IRB World Series standings with 60 points while Wales are in eighth position with 31 points.
However, due to the nature of the season which has seen a number of upsets in the three rounds to date, Argentina, Kenya, Samoa, South Africa, Fiji and France are all easily within touching distance of John's side.
In past seasons Wales have been guilty of letting promising positions against the big boys pass them by but John is hoping his side have turned a corner in that respect.
"It's all about consistency," he said. "It's been a problem in the past - when we lost a quarter-final we struggled in the two games afterwards but we had a really positive response from everyone - senior players Rhys Shellard, Lee Williams, Richie Pugh, Adam Thomas and Rhys Jones were all excellent. All those boys who have got experience led from the front and kept the group together - it was an example of what we can do - to beat Fiji twice in consecutive week's shows consistency.
"We've got a tough group coming up in New Zealand (Samoa, Canada and South Africa) and that's the thing – training has got to be hard to prepare the boys for what's coming up in Wellington. The attitude of the boys was outstanding in Dubai and South Africa. They worked hard as a group, communication on the field and training was much better and they got the results on the field they deserved.
"We were pleased to pick up two top five finishes on the trot as it was a big step up from the first tournament in the Gold Coast where we didn't make the main knockout stages and lost to Spain in the Bowl semi-final," added John.
"We've hit a good level over the last two tournaments – our aim has got to be to try and maintain that level as it always is. Consistency has proven to be very difficult in what is a hugely competitive environment.
"To play in front of 40,000 crowds against international opposition can only be good for the players' development – it is really testing and accelerating their development. Our aim is to keep going at the level we are at the moment and keep getting as many points as we can and build towards the World Cup in Russia in June."