England Sevens have suffered a heavy loss to Fiji in their opening game of the final leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Paris.
Fiji ran out 14-52 winners in all court display against the men in white.
Fiji scored tries through Josua Vakurunabili, Meli Derenalagi, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Napolioni Bolaca, Alasio Naduva and Nacuqu – all coming in the first half.
Despite tries from England Sevens veteran James Rodwell and Ben Harris, the Fijians were simply too strong, with Asaeli Tuivuaka and Apenisa Cakaubalavu both dotting down to have the final word.
The Blitzboks are defending champions in France, but with Olympic qualification achieved, some could argue that there is not much to play for them this weekend in the final of 10 tournaments on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) June 1, 2019
The race for the series title is hotter than ever with only two points separating Fiji (164) and USA (162) in first and second position.
Fiji overtook USA on the leader board in London last weekend where they celebrated not only the Cup final win, but qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
They were joined by USA and New Zealand who also booked their spots alongside Japan who earn automatic qualification as host nation.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series serves as the principal route to Tokyo 2020 qualification, with the top four teams going through.
Series leaders Fiji have made one change to their squad for this weekend with Napolioni Bolaca coming into the side. They will be hoping that their winning momentum continues as they fight for the overall title at the Stade Jean-Bouin this weekend.
After securing the bronze medal last weekend, USA have made one change to their squad with Joe Schroeder replacing Brett Thompson.
USA captain Madison Hughes is looking to end the season on a high by building on their performance in London, commenting: “There are a few small technical areas that we need to improve upon – if you look back at that semi-final it came down to a few moments where we turned the ball over, giving them opportunities.
“You know that if you turn over the ball against Fiji, they’re going to make you pay, and they did in that game.
“So we’re going to work on those few small technical areas and limit our turnovers, and if we do that and believe in ourselves, I think we’ll have a good weekend.”
Ranked in third place with 143 points, New Zealand have made two changes to their 12-man squad for the season finale. Scott Gregory has been released to the New Zealand U20s with Amanaki Nicole coming in as a replacement while Ngarohi McGarvey-Black has been called up as an injury replacement for Kurt Baker.
Co-captain Tim Mikkelson is expecting consistency from his side this weekend, commenting: “We played two or three really good games on the first day in London and then on the second day we played a good half but then we had no ball and no possession in the second half and lost to a very good French team. We just want that consistency of playing really well for six games.”
New Zealand will be celebrating a milestone within their squad this weekend as co-captain Scott Curry will earn his 50th cap as he takes to the pitch at the Stade Jean-Bouin.
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