Sydney’s Sun, Sea, Surf and Sand have been left behind after a gripping weekend of action in the Harbour City. The short flight to New Zealand takes the players further away from the rest of the world to a land that is long, proud and rugby mad.
A new location of the HSBC Sevens Series brings about a range of emotions from a players perspective.
There is excitement of exploring new places, new training facilities, new hotels and new coffee shops (which Hamilton is NOT short of), and then also the associated nerves of the unknown; the shared compact changing rooms, different stadium and pitch, different crowd and flow of the event.
The town is the fourth biggest in New Zealand but at less than 150,000 people it wouldn’t even get in England’s top 50.
That being said, there is an expectation that this weekend will see some serious numbers turn up for rugby, aside from the 25,000 that will engulf the famous Waikato Stadium. The players will know the significance of playing in a town home to the Super Rugby’s Chiefs, and if they didn’t - every shop worker, barista and taxi driver would remind them.
It is a long way to come for the English players to not feel they performed as they could. Having spoken with the players this week they have done a lot of soul searching to work out why.
The beauty of sevens is that they have another chance this week to rectify that, in a country where their record of winning is strong.
The unity gained from being in a country that give you no chance of succeeding is of huge motivation, and with South Africa again in the same pool, with a likely cross over of Argentina or New Zealand, there is a chance to completely overhaul the disappointing Sydney outcome.
Change is the only constant
There have been three different winners of the three legs this season so far, and the way the games are going with such unpredictability, it would be fair to assume another different winner could emerge this weekend.
Samoan support will be at unparalleled levels here in Waikato, and it will be interesting to see how the famed Sir Gordon Teitjens, so long the successful architect of New Zealand sevens rugby, will fare in the heartland of this rugby county.
Much is expected of the tournament to be a huge success, and all the ingredients are there to make that happen.
On a weekend when the NatWest 6 Nations will be gripping the home nations interest and bringing rugby supporters out the wood work, it is perfect timing for the English, Welsh and Scottish players in particular to make a mark.