By KEITH PUARIA
THE Wellington Sevens opens today at the ‘cake tin’ Westpac Trust Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, for the third leg of the International Rugby Board (IRB) sevens circuit.
PNG will face their first test, back on the international circuit today at 2:50pm (1250pm-PNG Time) against Australia in a game that although PNG is expected to struggle can still cause haedaches for the vulnerable Aussies.
Whilst Australian Coach, Michael Oconnor, has whipped a formidable but young side he will be confident they have the mental toughness to stay the course even after an inconsistent first two legs, in George, South Africa, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, he has set his side a realistic Cup semi-final target for this leg.
O’connor told rugby website, UR7s, during the week that the young team that he had brought to the first two legs, had learnt, with the back-to-back tournament experience and were keen to improve this time around.
PNG’s journey has also benefited from some of the best sevens meets across the Pacific, from Tahiti, to Australia, Sri Lanka and Fiji, and PNG coach Waisale Serevi, has set his sights on nothing short of high standard from his side.
Serevi, having played and coached at this level with success will look to leaders, Alex Haija, Monty Diave and Lawrence Kuso to take charge of the team’s fortunes.
While the first game will be the sides’ opportunity to make their mark it will be the lead-up to Serevi’s return to the circuit as a coach against Fiji at 5:20pm (3:20pm-PNG time). Serevi’s heir apparent, William Ryder, will lead the Hong Kong champions against his former mentor, Serevi, who will also go head to head for the first time as an opposing coach against Fiji’s Iliesa Tanivula.
PNG will play Scotland in the final pool match at 7:30pm (5:30pm) later in the evening before final placings will decide the finals draw.
There are 16 teams, spread across four pools in the tournament, and four trophies on offer – the Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield.
The PNG squad is: David Eri, Kojo Ware, Diave, Albert Levi Jr, Elizah Ryong, Haija, Buckley Joseph, Sova Milfred, Kuso, Benjamin John, Tisa Kautu, and Karo Kauna.
New Zealand will be out over the next two days with their minds on last year’s loss to England in the final still fresh, whilst Fiji will be out intent on ending their four year drought in Wellington.