Preview: Hong Kong Sevens
WORLD SERIES ROUND SEVEN: The seventh round of the global circuit will kick off on Friday, with Fiji returning to the competition in search of their fourth consecutive tournament title.
The Pacific islanders will contest Pool A against New Zealand, Russia and Samoa with one of their strongest squads in recent events.
Semi Kunatani and Isake Katonibau bolster their already experienced squad, as head coach Gareth Baber is eyeing a double win at Hong Kong and the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast on April 13 to 15.
In Pool B, Kenya features a number of key players such as Willy Ambaka, Collins Injera and Oscar Ouma. Fresh from their second place finish at the Canada leg in Vancouver last month, they will be aiming for another solid performance on the world series. Canada, Spain and Australia have also announced very competitive squads as they chase a win at the prestigious tournament.
Series leaders South Africa have opted for a younger squad in Hong Kong and will contest Pool C against a new look England side, talent-packed Scotland outfit and burgeoning South Korean team.
Pool D features three sides not in the Commonwealth Games - the United States, Argentina and France - who all have fielded full-strength sides.
The United States lifted the Cup in Las Vegas last month and have more silverware on their radar in Hong Kong. Wales' squad features the likes of Luke Treharne, Morgan Williams and Ethan Davies, so Pool D is set to be fiercely competitive.
Making the Hong Kong event all the more competitive is the qualifying tournament being staged to find the teams who will qualify to join the World Series full-time next year.
"For the Fijians, this is one of the biggest tournaments that exists," Fijian coach Gareth Baber said.
"I've selected a squad to go and win both Hong Kong and the Commonwealth Games, and we're ready to compete at the highest level," he said.
New Zealand Rugby's High-Performance Sevens Manager Tony Philp said it was vital to have experienced coaches lead the group at the prestigious Hong Kong event.
"We're under no illusion that Hong Kong will present a tough challenge for this group but they have been preparing well and there is a real air of excitement about what they can achieve," said Philp.
Another side looking to continue a recent form surge will be the United States.
"The competition is as intense as ever." United States coach Mike Friday said.
"Ultimately it's about which team delivers on the pitch in front of an electric atmosphere. When you get the opportunity to play in Hong Kong, you grab it with both hands."
There are few venues more intimidating than Hong Kong to make your debut, but Springbok Ryan Oosthuizen had some calming advice for the five new BlitzBoks that will run out for the team this weekend.
Friday's start will see a bunch of new faces in the BlitzBoks jersey, but Oosthuizen, who was a member of the 2016/17 World Series-winning team, was at ease with that.
"We back them just as much as the coach backed them by selecting them," Oosthuizen said.
"Hong Kong is a great tournament to play in, but we do not need to be overwhelmed by that. We have solid structures in place and a process that delivers results. So if the young guys stick to that, they will be fine.
"We will play with a smile on our faces because this is a massive opportunity for all of us to play for our country and to make our supporters proud."
Oosthuizen added: "The more senior guys will give advice and guidance as that is part of the team's culture. Philip Snyman and Chris Dry helped me along when I started, so I will do the same, but we are all in this together. If we stick together as a team, it will be much easier for us as a group."
(Kick-off time is local - GMT plus eight hours)
Friday, April 6
Argentina v Wales - 18.00
United States v France - 18.24
England v Scotland - 18.48
South Africa v South Korea - 19.10
Australia v Spain - 19.32
Kenya v Canada - 19.54
New Zealand v Russia - 20.18
Fiji v Samoa - 20.43
Saturday, April 7
Argentina v France - 11.14
United States v Wales - 11.38
England v South Korea - 12.00
South Africa v Scotland - 12.22
Australia v Canada - 12.48
Kenya v Spain - 13.10
New Zealand v Samoa - 13.32
Fiji v Russia - 13.54
Wales v France - 15.16
United States v Argentina - 15.38
Scotland v South Korea - 16.00
South Africa v England - 16.24
Spain v Canada - 16.48
Kenya v Australia - 17.10
Russia v Samoa - 17.32
Fiji v New Zealand - 17.54