HAWKEYE VIEW: INSIDE THE 'CAKE TIN'
EXCLUSIVE: MATT HAWKINS, RUGBY365'S SPECIALIST SEVENS COLUMNIST, TAKES US BEHIND THE SCENES AT WELLINGTON - ROUND FOUR OF THE WORLD SERIES!
Wellington Day One is done and dusted, with the usual batch op upsets and surprises.
The New Zealand tournament is hosted in the 'Cake Tin', the Westpac stadium, home of the Hurricanes.
For those that have not been to New Zealand's capital, Wellington, it sits on the southern tip of the North Island and is a picturesque city.
The downtown environment has an eclectic feel - as the high-rise buildings sit along the curved and flowing shoreline. It is a city that is alive and thriving with social abundance - a rejuvenated wharf area that has a buzz about it that reaches epic proportions on tournament weekends.
A very special day takes place over the tournament week each year, which celebrates Waitangi Day - to commemorates a significant day in the history of New Zealand, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, in 1840. It is a public holiday held each year on February 6.
Wellington shows its appreciation for the players - who have come from around the world to compete in the Sevens World Series over the weekend - through a parade hosted in downtown Wellington. And its also signifies the official start of to the infamous Welly Sevens with a bang. The streets of Downtown Wellington shut down and the people of Wellington descend on to the streets of the main strip to cheer on each country. Each team is provided with their own wagon that is driven along through the streets of Wellington in the Parade of nations where they are clapped on and celebrated.
It's a fantastic event and a momentous occasion for fans and players alike! This is all part of the fourth stop on the Sevens World Series.
Now to the game itself, we are moving towards the point of no return for some teams.
What do I mean about the point of no return?
This year is special and the next six tournaments are what is left of the first ever automatic qualification process for four teams to booked their tickets to the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.
As it stands, the top four right now are:
South Africa have finished fourth, first and first.
Fiji have finished first, this and sixth.
New Zealand have finished fifth, fourth and second.
Australia have finished seventh, second and third.
As we look at those past finishes we start to realize just how volatile the Series is and the real need for teams to be consistent.
In any series in any sport it's the most consistent teams that win it. It's the same old story of the tortoise and the hare.
South Africa currently is the only team that has maintained a consistent top four finish throughout all three stops.
Fiji and Australia have had opposite fortunes - with Fiji starting strong and then slipping over the next two tournaments, where Australia have grown in stature and performance over the last three tournaments.
New Zealand have, unusually for them, struggled through the first three tournaments, but definitely started to show signs of the team of old in the last tournament. A massive blow for them moving forward in to Wellington this weekend will be the loss to injury of Tim Mikkelson.
Wellington will provide one more piece to this ever-evolving puzzle that will outline the final master piece for those that finish in the Top Four. Right now it's a six-horse race - as Argentina and England look to close in on the current Top Four. A massive weekend is needed by all six of these teams to keep them in the hunt moving forward.
For some there is still the drive to win the Sevens World Series and for others there is the desire and dream of the Olympics.
Coming out of this leg that comprises both Wellington and Las Vegas the picture will start to become clearer and posturing period will be over.
By Matt Hawkins