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NZ’s big return to Rugby Sevens

New Zealand made an excellent start Saturday on their return to the World Rugby Sevens Series after a two-year absence as they topped their round-robin pool with victories against Argentina, Scotland and Wales.

New Zealand have won the World Rugby Sevens Series a record 13 times but had not competed on the circuit since March 2020 due to pandemic-spurred travel issues.

They were given a stern test by Argentina in their opening game at HSBC Singapore Ruby Sevens, but prevailed 12-10 against the South Americans before seeing off Scotland (19-7) and Wales (43-5) to finish atop their pool.

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The All Blacks Sevens will next face Samoa, who are also making their first appearance in this season’s series after withdrawing from the Seville tournament in January following a Covid outbreak in their squad.

The Manu Samoa Sevens lost 26-17 to Australia in their opener, but beat England 31-5 and Spain 28-14 to finish second in their pool.

Australia powered past Spain (28-12) and England (40-0) to top their section as they look to improve on their second-place finish in Seville.

Meanwhile, Fiji survived a scare — first beaten 21-12 by Ireland in their opener, they came back from behind to edge France 26-19, and demolished Japan in a 62-0 win.

A last-gasp try by American Perry Baker helped the United States stun Series leaders South Africa as they topped their pool.

South Africa have won all four tournaments to date this season — leading the standings with 88 points — but the Blitzboks will face a tough quarter-final against Fiji, who won gold in last year’s Olympic Games.

The quarter-finals will take place at Singapore’s National Stadium on Sunday, and will include New Zealand meeting Samoa, the United States facing Ireland and Australia taking on Argentina.

© Agence France-Presse

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