Glasgow Sevens countdown - 25 days
irbsevens.com and James Mortimer 10 Apr 2013 Getty Images
And in doing without the injured Tomasi Cama, Kurt Baker, DJ Forbes and Sam Dickson in Hong Kong and Tokyo, Gordon Tietjens may also, unwittingly, have cemented his next generation of players. Tim Mikkelson and Lote Raikabula provided the glue but Ben Lam, Gillies Kaka, Rocky Khan and Belgium Tuatagaloa have all made breakthroughs.
And yet New Zealand's men have only won one Cup title this season - in South Africa - while Alifereti Dere's Fijians and Paul Treu's Springboks (and New Zealand's women) have risen to the challenge twice now to win the all-important 'gold medal' match. And that kind of success and 'mental map' may prove extremely significant in this of all seasons, which culminates in the one-off Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June. In a World Cup you only get one chance.
As we traverse down the Series table, fouth-placed Samoa are clear contenders in any Cup and will be among the favourites in Moscow, while France, Kenya and Wales have also made Cup semi finals in these past two weeks, impressing along with a strong Canadian side.
Promotion / relegation battle intensifies
For Australia and England the World Cup could be season-defining. Both have endured below-par World Series campaigns, England's full-time squad managing only one Cup quarter final appearance out of seven. You sense that Moscow cannot come soon enough, especially for Michael O'Connor's Aussies, who looked back near their best in finishing third in Tokyo.
If the top end of the Series looks a one-horse race, the battle to retain core team status next season - and avoid the dreaded promotion / relegation play-offs at the final round in London - is more intriguing.
Australia, England and Canada have all probably done enough now to edge out of the danger zone and finish in the top 12, but underneath them a tasty sub-plot is brewing ahead of the crucial penultimate round in Glasgow.
Spain and Portugal are struggling in 14th and 15th place and will probably have to line up with Russia, Zimbabwe, Tonga, Georgia and Hong Kong in the core team qualifier at Twickenham.
Just above them, though, Glasgow hosts Scotland are currently tied 12th-equal with the USA, both having performed heroics in Tokyo to reach the Plate final with wins over Samoa and Fiji. Alex Magleby's Eagles won that match, which may yet prove a massive result. You wonder whether Scotland will send for the cavalry and recruit any Test caps for Glasgow, or whether the current squad will be entrusted with the task in hand.
Most popular News:
Wayne Smith to re-join All Blacks coaching staff for 201522.Dec.2014
All Blacks selection round table: The loose forwards21.Dec.2014
Black Ferns gain automatic qualification into 2017 World Cup20.Dec.2014
Reds confirm Ballymore pre-season against Crusaders20.Dec.2014
Barbarians confirm 125th birthday clash with Argentina19.Dec.2014
Carter to leave New Zealand Rugby at end of 201518.Dec.2014