The first event of 2023 kicks off next weekend with the return of the HSBC New Zealand Sevens at FMG Stadium Waikato as the race to qualify for Paris 2024 heats up.
After a short break for the holiday season, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 continues with the HSBC New Zealand Sevens on 21-22 January kicking off what will be a thrilling year for rugby sevens.
Hamilton marks the fourth event in a busy 11-stop men’s Series, with Samoa and South Africa currently tied atop the standings, closely followed by New Zealand and USA.
In the women’s competition, Hamilton marks the third stop on the 2023 Series with trans-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand tied at the top of the standings after winning titles in Dubai and Cape Town respectively. USA and France are leading the chase in the race for the top four.
Having been on New Zealand’s sporting calendar for more than two decades, this year the tournament will see the addition of a second playing field next to FMG Stadium Waikato to enable the full men’s and women’s draws to be played over two action-packed days.
The men’s pool draw for Hamilton sees Cape Town champions Samoa take their place in Pool A alongside Olympic champions Fiji, France and Kenya.
Hosts New Zealand slot into Pool B alongside Great Britain, Hong Kong winners Australia and invitational team Tonga.
Cape Town bronze medal winners USA lead Pool C and will face off against Uruguay, Ireland and Japan on day one.
South Africa, Cup winners in Dubai in December, are joined by Argentina, Spain and Canada in Pool D.
“Teams will be looking to build towards Olympic qualification, so we have to hit the ground running on day one,” All Blacks Sevens head coach Clark Laidlaw said.
“The players can’t wait to get out on the field at FMG Stadium Waikato and put on their best performance in front of a big home crowd one last time. We are looking forward to it.”
In the women’s competition, hosts New Zealand will face off against Great Britain, Fiji and invitational team Papua New Guinea in Pool A.
Australia, who will be looking to build on their incredible momentum in 2022 in Hamilton ahead of their home tournament in Sydney from 27-29 January, headline Pool B alongside France, Canada and Japan.
Pool C features USA, Ireland, Brazil and Spain.
“To be back playing in a World Series event on our whenua since 2020 is incredibly exciting. The team has been looking forward to competing on home turf, in front of their whānau and fans. It’s going to be a memorable weekend for all of us, especially the players who will be taking the field for the final time in Hamilton,” Black Ferns Sevens head coach Cory Sweeney said.
World Rugby Chief Competitions and Performance Officer, Nigel Cass said: “We are excited to kick off what will be a thrilling year for rugby sevens at the HSBC New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton next weekend in front of a packed house of knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate rugby fans.
“With Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualification on the line this season for both men’s and women's competitions, we know the action will be fierce at FMG Stadium Waikato from the opening match on Saturday morning to the final whistle on Sunday evening.”
The weekend kicks off with South Africa against Canada in the men’s competition on 21 January at 09:10 local time (GMT +13) in Pool D action. Day one concludes with the New Zealand and Great Britain encounter in the women’s event at 20:03.