irb.com and James Mortimer 10.Oct.2013IRB
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Only the captain of South Africa Kyle Brown was absent, the Springbok Sevens grounded by bad weather and not due to arrive on the Gold Coast until the early hours of Friday morning.
Hosts Australia have the benefit of their captain Ed Jenkins being fully fit and raring to go ahead of the new season.
"Last year was very frustrating [for me]. I think it was game two here on the Gold Coast that I injured my shoulder and was sidelined for the majority of the year, so to come out now and be refreshed and injury-free is a great feeling and I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing some more footy," said Jenkins after the launch of the Series at Surfer's Paradise.
"Obviously it's a huge honour playing on the Gold Coast. Any time you get to play in front of your home country it's great and we'll have lots of friends and family there supporting us this weekend, so hopefully we can go all the way."
Australia is one of many nations to have embraced the new Olympic era by putting in place a full-time programme for its Sevens athletes. After a three-week rest in July following the World Cup, Jenkins and his teammates have been back in training and he is confident they are in good shape heading for the Series opener.
"We've moved into the professional era of Sevens now and we have a full-time programme. In previous years we haven't really had that luxury so we've been training up the coast in Brisbane for the past eight weeks and the preparation has been really good," he said, while also acknowledging that there are no guarantees.
"Looking back a few years, you'd be able to red-pen a few sides in your pool and almost guarantee a path straight into the Cup quarter-finals, but these days it's almost impossible to do that. Every side's competitive and every game can go either way, so the way that Sevens has gone in the last few years, with the introduction into the Olympics, has been great for the game and it's only going to get more competitive over the years I think."
The hosts line up in Pool D at Skilled Park against Samoa, Argentina and Scotland.
"There's no easy pool and this weekend we face Samoa and Argentina, who both finished above us last year, and Scotland can turn it on any time they want, so that's three tough games first up. So we've got to do our best to get out of our pool and then see what happens after that."
Osea Kolinisau is captain of defending Gold Coast Sevens champions, Fiji, who line up in Pool C against Wales, Canada and Portugal.
"We've been preparing really well, we had a tournament last week in Fiji as a build-up for this so we're looking forward to defending this title, but we're taking every game as it comes. It's always our goal to win and I think we can do it," said Kolinisau, who is Ben Ryan's first captain as coach of Fiji.
"We're pretty privileged to have Ben Ryan as our coach. He's been coaching England for six years and to have a coach like that with that experience of the Series is a major boost for the Fiji team, and he's just trying to help us blend well to play in the Fiji style."
Kolinisau memorably scored a hat-trick in the second half of the Cup final in Hong Kong last season, inspiring the islanders to come back from 17-0 down against Wales and take the title. Wales and their captain Adam Thomas are now relishing the chance to take on Fiji as early as the pool stages and are confident they can repeat the victory they scored against them in the World Cup.
"We've had a serious core group for a year or two now and we've had a good pre-season tour to South Africa, and worked hard before and after that in camp, so we're just hoping that we can bring this stability and performance into our game in the first round of the Series, and hopefully carry on through," said Thomas.
"We've always said we're good enough to compete against the best, it's just that consistency, and Hong Kong last year has shown that we can compete and we carry that too into this season."
One of the stories of last season was Kenya's rise under the coaching of Mike Friday. The Kenyans started that campaign a year ago with a draw against England at Skilled Park and this time they face Series leaders New Zealand, USA and Tonga on day one.
"I think we're excited, Australia has been a good hunting ground for us and we're here to start things off and see where we can be at the end of the season," said Andrew Amonde, who retains the armband under interim coach, Felix Ochieng.
"Last season I think we learnt about the commitment that everyone has to make and the hard work that has to go in the pot, it's something that the boys are adapting and the boys can take it to the next level. Our aim now is to go one better than we did (fifth) last year."
The action gets underway at 10:30 local time at Skilled Park on Saturday when the defending Series champions take on USA in the first match of the season.
DJ Forbes talks about the Gold Coast Sevens 992 views