All Blacks Sevens chart new beginnings in the HSBC SVNS Series
It may be an Olympic Games year for the All Blacks Sevens, but it will be a case of first steps first, for the side when opening their HSBC SVNS Series in Dubai at the weekend.
New head coach Tomasi Cama said a lot of work had been done in the pre-season, and it was now a case of getting into action.
"Training has been good. We had a lot of boys coming back from playing (Bunnings) NPC and they have been training since the start of pre-season. It was a good opportunity to play the Oceania tournament, but we are looking forward to this to start off the season and see where we are at."
The All Blacks Sevens won the Oceania tournament when they beat Samoa in extra time in the final 24-19 earlier this month.
The tournament has been revamped, with participating teams in each round reduced to 12 from 16 to align with the Olympic Games format. The top eight teams at the end of the series will play in a 'grand final' in Madrid, while the teams from nine to 12 will play off against the top four teams in the Sevens Challenger Series in promotion-relegation for the 2024-25 season.
Cama said there would be no easy games in the World Series, and New Zealand would need to be on their A game from the outset and avoid having to come from behind to qualify for the playoff stages.
There was also pressure to score the most points available to qualify.
"There's going to be some exciting pool games, and come the quarterfinals, the quality of the games is going to be higher than expected."
Cama said the All Blacks Sevens took a lot of lessons from their successful season last year. They hadn't started well, but they improved with quick changes and finding consistency in performance.
Preparation was essential, and looking at every game as a final had contributed to their success.
There is no pressure on the side as defending champions; they want to start again.
"We're not here to defend anything. We're going to play each game, and each tournament, as we go. Hopefully, we do well in each tournament."
Dubai had its attractions, but from a Sevens perspective, it was about how teams handled the heat.
"Most teams prepare well, and with it being the start of the series, everyone wants to start well. You don't want to chase the series down the line."
The Olympic Games are the end goal for the side, but before they can think about them, they have to take their first steps of the season.
"We can't really focus too much on what is at the back of this season. We want to make sure that we don't miss a beat or a step along the way, and this is the first step for us.
"We've done our camp, we've done a lot of good things at our camp on where we want to get to and how we want to start on and off the field.
"We've challenged ourselves on a few things we can do better, things we can check along the way to make sure these things are aligned. If they are aligned, then things are on the right track come the Olympics.
"This is the first step. It will be interesting to see, and if we make that first step, hopefully we will step in the right direction whatever the outcome this week and I'm pretty sure it's the right step towards that goal."