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Preview: 2014 Bayleys National Sevens

James Mortimer     11 Jan 2014    

Rotorua International Stadium will host the two day event for the first time on 11, 12 January with 26 provincial teams vying for national honours.

“It’s great to be bringing the National Sevens to Rotorua during the holiday period as it’s an exciting opportunity to grow the game on the back of the fine foundation provided by Queenstown in the past ten years,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew.

Who is going to win?

The reality is that Olympics inclusion and a massive focus on Sevens rugby throughout New Zealand will ensure this is arguably the most competitive tournament yet.

Numerous mens and womens teams have been strengthened by All Blacks Sevens and Women's international stars, while there is plenty of rising talent on display - let us not forget that Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen were first sighted in these competitions.

Now in it's 40th edition, Manawatu is favoured to retain their women's title thanks to their demolition of Auckland at Blake Park last weekend

Manawatu boasts Sarah Goss and Selica Winiata, but Auckland are not without their own galaxy of stars, including National captain Huriana Manuel and the lady rated as the best female Sevens player on the planet by the IRB, Kayla McAlister.

Taranaki have been rocked by injuries of late but welcome back Warwick Lahmert to skipper the team, while strike winger Waisake Naholo will want to grab some headlines again.

Auckland as always have a new looking squad but have veterans in the team in the form of Ben Lam and Orene Ai'i.

The dark horse could be the magpies, with a firing Gillies Kaka and Ihaia West in the Hawke's Bay squad.

Is it on TV?

It will be broadcast live on SKY Sport 2 and the Rugby Channel on both days in New Zealand.

What if I can't watch on the box or get to the ground?

We will provide updates throughout the day at twitter.com/NZ7s

There will also be plenty of content up on allblacks.com and our official Facebook page.

Can I see the full draw?

Sure, here you are!

Who made it through in the end?

Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Auckland, Waikato, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu, Taranaki and Wellington are the women's qualifiers.

Canterbury, Southland, Tasman, Mid Canterbury, Otago, Auckland, Northland, Counties Manukau, Waikato, North Harbour, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu, Wellington and Poverty Bay are the competing men's outfits.

What about the history of the tournament?

Manawatu are the defending Women's champions, while Taranaki took out the Men's title - for a little history lesson, click here.

Are there international ramifications for this?

Yes there are.

All Blacks Sevens Coach Gordon Tietjens will be looking to select four players for the All Blacks Sevens wider training group as well as keeping his eye out for rising stars.

New Zealand Women’s Sevens Coach Sean Horan will use the tournament to finalise his squad of 17 contracted players.

How did everyone get here?

Teams from the 26 Provincial Unions have to qualify to attend at the National Event in Rotorua.

The teams are divided into pools of four teams, who play a round-robin within the pool.

The top two teams in each pool advanced to the Cup competition. The four quarterfinal losers dropped into the bracket for the Plate. The Bowl was contested by the third and fourth-place finishers in each pool, with the losers in the Bowl quarterfinals dropping into the bracket for the Shield.

SOUTHERN REGION

Southern Regional Sevens Tournament was held on 23rd November, with Canterbury winning both the Men's and Women's finals. The seedings are as follows, with these teams qualifying for the Bayleys National Sevens in Rotorua in January:

WOMEN
1. Canterbury
2. Otago
3. Southland

MEN
1. Canterbury
2. Southland
3. Tasman
4. Mid Canterbury
5. Otago

NORTHERN REGION

The Waikato Rugby Union hosted this year's Northern Regional Sevens tournament at Waikato Stadium on 14 December.

The annual regional tournament saw another union take out a double, with Auckland winning the mens and womens events.

MEN
1. Auckland
2. Northland
3. Counties Manukau
4. Waikato
5. North Harbour
6. Bay of Plenty (as hosts of the National tournament, Bay of Plenty automatically qualify)

WOMEN
1. Auckland
2. Waikato
3. Counties Manukau
4. Bay of Plenty

CENTRAL REGION

Held on the 7 December in Palmerston North, reigning National Women's champions Manawatu emerged as top qualifier, while Hawke's Bay shocked the National men's champions in Taranaki to be ranked number one in the central zone.

WOMEN
1. Manawatu
2. Taranaki
3. Wellington

MEN
1. Hawke’s Bay
2. Taranaki
3. Manawatu
4. Wellington
5. Poverty Bay

Wait, wasn't this in Queenstown?

The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union secured the rights to host the National Sevens Tournament in Rotorua for 2014 and 2015.

Queenstown had hosted the tournament since 2003 and New Zealand Rugby decided in 2012 to call for tenders for the event to ensure it catered for the future needs of players, fans, sponsors and broadcasters.

"Sevens is rising in popularity across both the men's and women's games so we are very keen to make the most of this and Rotorua offers us the best opportunity to do that," said NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.

"2014 and 2015 are critical years in the build-up to Sevens' debut on the Olympic stage in 2016 so we are really excited about the role Rotorua will play in our plans to win two golds at Rio."

While Tew admitted Queenstown would be losing an event they had excelled at over the years, some factors, such as a 30,000 plus capacity at Rotorua National Stadium, were critical to ensure the tournament can continue to grow.

"The National Sevens Tournament is a proven springboard for players to step up to the top level so it's important we safeguard the role it plays," said Tew.
.
"We need greater capacity to cater for future expansion of the tournament both in terms of grounds and spectator facilities and Bay of Plenty provided a compelling package in that regard. We also think Rotorua International Stadium will provide a fantastic environment to showcase the depth of our skills in the Sevens game.

"I would like to thank Queenstown's organising committee Sevens with Altitude for its outstanding efforts in hosting the tournament since 2003. We have really appreciated their energy and passion in reviving the event and turning it into an important part of the rugby calendar."