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The difficulties of staying No.1

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'I need to change things in my game' - Perry Baker

What a great way for the USA to start 2019 as the top ranked team in the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series. However, we know that ranking makes us the target for every other team and so the challenge is to stay on top of the log.

It is a great position to be in and we have set our goal to finish in the top four at the end of this Series to automatically qualify for the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020 and to be No.1 going into this weekend’s Hamilton tournament in New Zealand is a real boost for everyone in the USA squad. The priority now is to stay level headed and keep things moving along smoothly and it’s about maintaining that focus.

Opposition teams are evolving strategically and I need to change things in my game to respond to that and deliver something different in my role with the USA team. Defences are changing and so you have to recognise that is happening and come up with new strategies to be more decisive and incisive. Last year we were really showed some great rugby and then looked totally different in the next leg and so finding that consistency is vital and that is what great teams produce.

There has been a lot more social media attention because of what we have achieved so far this season and having won the Las Vegas leg last year there has been a lot of interest from fans who want to be there to see us defend that title. I am lucky to have a lot of followers on social media and at first they probably wanted to just check out who this guy is who was named World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year and having been fortunate to be named for a second successive year people are sending me messages and catching up with video of our matches.

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In other news: Maro Itoje commits future to Saracens with new deal until 2022

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Here in New Zealand everyone loves rugby and the support is amazing and people were coming up to me in the shopping mall wishing me good luck for this weekend and that is pretty cool. It is going to be even extra special for the local fans who get to watch the Black Ferns in action live for the first time and there has been a fantastic growth in the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series since 2015. The Black Ferns are taking part in the first international sevens to be staged in New Zealand and it will be a four-team women’s tournament with England, France and China.

There will also be a lot of fans backing Fiji, the defending title holders, in the crowd and those guys get tremendous support no matter where we are playing and they love seeing all those flags and messages. We know what a difference that kind of backing can make having been thrilled by the support we got at the Las Vegas leg last year.

As a squad, we all had a little break over the holiday period and then it was right back into training and being No.1 there is a buzz around the guys and it has brought everyone a little closer. We have talked a lot about becoming a real family as a squad – a brotherhood. We know that guys want to win their home tournament and so we are expecting big things from New Zealand and this is going to a very interesting and exciting leg of the Series.

In Sevens, games are won in the last ten seconds of matches and we have to keep fighting to the very end and we are well aware of just how tough the season is going to be and we all have to back it up next week when we move to Sydney for the next leg.

Watch: Rugby World Cup Japan city guide – Oita

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'I need to change things in my game' - Perry Baker