Preview: Commonwealth Games
SEVENS SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont is predicting Sevens to be at its exhilarating and compelling best at a landmark Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
One of the most-anticipated sports at the Games, the 16 men's teams get their campaigns underway on Saturday, before the competition culminates in the medal matches on Sunday.
Sevens made its Commonwealth Games debut in Malaysia back in 1998 - with New Zealand winning the first of four consecutive gold medals, before South Africa ended their 30-match unbeaten run to claim gold in Glasgow four years ago.
Known and loved for its fast pace and unpredictability, the Sevens competition is set to be competitive and cutthroat.
The men's competition format is ruthless.
Unlike the World Series, where the top two teams in each pool advance to a quarterfinal round, only the top team in each of the four pools will progress to the semifinals and have a chance to play for medals.
The top four ranked teams were allocated the top spot in each pool, with random draws conducted for each band of four teams based on their current world rankings.
All-time World Series record points scorer Ben Gollings believes the competitions at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be the biggest and best yet.
Olympic inclusion and the ever-increasing competitiveness of the men's series have elevated the sport to new heights since Gollings won silver with England the last time the Commonwealth Games were held on Australian soil, in Melbourne some 12 years ago, and the 37-year-old cannot wait to see the action unfold inside the Robina Stadium on Saturday (April 14) and Sunday (April 15).
"I am very excited about the Games," said Gollings, who is currently in an advisory role with Singapore Rugby.
Recalling his own experiences, Gollings looks back fondly on the 2006 Commonwealth Games where he starred alongside the likes of current England scrumhalf Danny Care.
"Winning silver in Melbourne was awesome. There were some very strong sides and we just missed out on the gold to New Zealand having beaten Fiji, Samoa, Australia along the way.
"The stadium and crowd were amazing. The event was very special, and I have a lot of great memories from it. I wish I was still playing for Gold Coast 2018."
Sevens enjoyed a brilliant debut at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and the sport has not looked back since.
"The Games are very important, it played a big part in getting sevens to become an Olympic sport and it offers another great competition every four years," Gollings stressed.
"Sevens now has an Olympics, World Cup and Commonwealth Games - you can't beat that. It offers the players a great opportunity to experience and be a part of a big sporting event.
"All the top sevens nations are there so it makes it very competitive and is often the showcase event at every Games."
It's time for Sevens to step out of the shadow of the 15-a-side code, according to one of Australia's most-capped players Ed Jenkins.
The former Australian men's team captain believes winning gold at the Games would do the job.
"We've always played little brother to the 15-a-side code," Jenkins told GC2018.com.
"It's the traditionalists out there that see Sevens as a Mickey Mouse tournament and they don't take it as seriously.
"Now that it is an Olympic sport, it's a Commonwealth Games sport and has been for over a decade now, people's mindset] needs to change a bit and give it the recognition that it deserves."
While nine of the teams involved have played in every Commonwealth Games to date, two nations will make their debuts on the Gold Coast in Jamaica and Zambia.
Beaumont said: "In a golden era for Sevens, this is the most widely anticipated Commonwealth Games Sevens event ever.
"It is both historic as the first to feature a women's competition, but also set to be highly-competitive and played on one of the most impressive stages.
"The Commonwealth Games and rugby sevens have enjoyed a long and hugely successful relationship and we are especially delighted that the Gold Coast organisers and our friends at the Commonwealth Games Federation shared our passion to feature a women's tournament.
"And what a place to do it. Australia is the Olympic champions, the current World Series leaders and a drawcard at these Games. I can't wait to see the reception that they and all eight women's teams have at this landmark Games."
(Kick-off is local time - GMT plus 10 hours)
Saturday, April 14
Australia v Samoa - 09.31
England v Jamaica - 09.53
Canada v Kenya - 10.15
New Zealand v Zambia - 10.37
Wales v Uganda - 10.59
Fiji v Sri Lanka - 11.21
Scotland v Papua New Guinea - 11.43
South Africa v Malaysia - 12.05
Australia v Jamaica - 13.11
England v Samoa - 13.33
Canada v Zambia - 13.55
New Zealand v Kenya - 14.17
Wales v Sri Lanka - 17.31
Fiji v Uganda - 17.53
Scotland v Malaysia - 18.15
South Africa v Papua New Guinea - 18.37
Samoa v Jamaica - 19.43
England v Australia - 20.05
Kenya v Zambia - 20.27
New Zealand v Canada - 20.49
Uganda v Sri Lanka - 21.11
Fiji v Wales - 21.33
Papua New Guinea v Malaysia - 21.55
South Africa v Scotland - 22.17