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Where Warren Gatland's Wales are poised to do the most damage

The best single unit in the Wales side is the formidable back row.

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Black Fern stars return to sevens with monster victories in Hamilton

By Ned Lester
Portia Woodman at Black Fern Sevens training. Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

The Black Fern Sevens are making the absolute most of their final tournament on New Zealand soil, starting the Hamilton Sevens tournament with two emphatic wins where the women in black conceded not a single point.

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In their first match of the day, Papua New Guinea struggled to retain any ounce of possession as Stacey Waaka-Fluhler came flying in to pick off the contestable kickoffs. The recent Rugby World Cup champion had a hat-trick of tries by halftime as her side’s execution kept the game entirely in Papua New guinea’s half.

Sarah Hirini profited from her team’s linebreaks and ran the support lines expertly to get herself two tries while Theresa Fitzpatrick only made a brief appearance off the bench.

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The Kiwi side’s abundance of experienced talent in the like of Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Ruby Tui and the aforementioned Waaka-Fluhler, Fitzpatrick and Hirini look to have their work cut out for them as young stars rise through the ranks with no shortage of X-factor and confidence on their side.

Tysha Ikenasio, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku and Kelsey Teneti each debuted in their absence and are proving to be more than just highlight-reel players.

In their second game of the day, the Ferns faced the Flying Fijians and again dominated territory while limiting the Fijian’s attacking threats. The Kiwi opposition’s best scoring chance of the day so far presented itself just before halftime but Michaela Blyde’s pace was too much for the runaway Fijian.

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Blyde is celebrating her tenth year in the Black Ferns Sevens team and looks to be in World Player of the Year form early in the season, she guided a young roster to second place in Dubai and then claimed gold in Cape Town, both times facing the Wallaroo Sevens who they share the top of the series table with.

While the Black Ferns players who left for the 15s World Cup last year have been resting, the new crop of young talent have been learning the ropes of international competition and thriving in it. Blyde says the absence of the likes of Woodman-Wickliffe and Tui has created an environment of real competition for selection.

“We weren’t lacking leadership in Dubai and Cape Town,” Blyde told World Rugby. “But we definitely had a lot of young girls who were debuting and had never felt the pressure of playing in a World Series final, and they played absolutely amazing.

“We had every single girl really step up in Dubai and Cape Town and so, now that the 15s girls have come back in, their spots are definitely not secured.

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“That’s the healthy competition that we want in our environment. We don’t want it to be an easy decision for our coach to select the team.”

The men’s Kiwi side claimed a comfortable win over Tonga before a tight contest with trans-Tasman rivals Australia was won with a magnificent solo effort from 21-year-old Roderick Solo in the twelfth minute.

The All Black Sevens look likely to face Ireland in the quarter-final tomorrow while the Black Fern Sevens could face Brazil in their quarter-final, but matches against Great Britain for both teams later this evening will finalise the draw.

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RUGBYPASS+ Where Warren Gatland's Wales are poised to do the most damage Where Warren Gatland's Wales are poised to do the most damage
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