Preview: Wellington Sevens
New Zealand will be seeking a third straight victory on home soil this weekend in the fourth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Wellington.
Gordon Tietjens' troops are on a high after snatching a record-breaking fourth consecutive Cup victory in South Africa, and their supporters will fill Westpac Stadium expecting them to defend the title they won last year.
New Zealand top the tournament standings on 60 points, ahead of France (46), Fiji (44), South Africa (41) and Samoa (39).
They face a tough first game against England, with Spain and the USA also in their pool.
Many would argue England head into this weekend's Sevens with pressure mounting due to their current position of 13th in the overall standings.
Following a disappointing opening three rounds, in which they have failed to make a Cup quarter-final, Ben Ryan's men find themselves in unfamiliar territory entering the fourth round in Wellington.
This year's Series culminates in the new promotion/relegation tournament at the ninth round in London, involving the bottom three-ranked core teams after Round Eight in Glasgow. If that tournament was played today, England would find themselves needing to reconfirm their core team status.
Whilst the Kiwis are runaway favourites for the Wellington event, bookmakers - perhaps surprisingly - rank South Africa as the next most likely team to emerge victorious this weekend.
The Blitzbokke finished third in the South Africa and Australia legs, with coach Paul Treu saying his charges had to find a way to lift and win crunch games if they wanted to claim the Cup.
"Our team has spoken a lot of those small margins for error and if we can manage to keep our focus throughout and keep on creating opportunities, then we will be a threat," he said.
South Africa's pool includes Wales, Canada and Samoa, one of the crowd-favourites in Wellington, which has a large expatriate Pacific island population.
France, this season's surprise package - twice Cup semi-finalists already and ranked second in the Series following their runners-up slot in Port Elizabeth - will seek to maintain their momentum in a pool consisting of Argentina, Kenya and Tonga.
The French have based their new-found focus and hunger on a dogged defence and coach Frederic Pomarel has probably hit all of his season's targets already.
Fiji, the last non-local side to win in Wellington in 2010, have a tough pool comprising Australia, Scotland and Portugal.
After hitting the high notes to defend their Cup title on the Gold Coast, Fiji have suffered a slight dip in form but currently still lie in third place, 16 behind New Zealand. On the downside, that is a lot already to make up on such a consistent team.
Portugal, meanwhile, have reached two successive Cup quarter-finals this season, can they make a third in Wellington?
Day One schedule - Friday, February 1:
(Kick-off times are local - GMT plus 13 hours)
Match 1: France v Kenya, 13.00
Match 2: Argentina v Tonga, 13.22
Match 3: South Africa v Samoa, 13.44
Match 4: Wales v Canada, 14.06
Match 5: Portugal v Australia, 14.28
Match 6: Fiji v Scotland, 14.50
Match 7: New Zealand v England, 15.12
Match 8: United States v Spain, 15.34
Match 9: France v Tonga, 15.56
Match 10: Argentina v Kenya, 16.18
Match 11: South Africa v Canada, 16.40
Match 12: Wales v Samoa, 17.02
Match 13: Portugal v Scotland, 17.24
Match 14: Fiji v Australia, 17.46
Match 15: New Zealand v Spain, 18.08
Match 16: United States v England, 18.30
Match 17: Kenya v Tonga, 18.52
Match 18: Samoa v Canada, 19.14
Match 19: France v Argentina, 19.36
Match 20: Australia v Scotland, 20.28
Match 21: England v Spain, 20.50
Match 22: South Africa v Wales, 21.12
Match 23: Portugal v Fiji, 21.34
Match 24: New Zealand v United States, 21.56