Namibia in a Tough Group

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By Kuvee Kangueehi WINDHOEK Namibia Seven’s rugby team faces a tough group in the Commonwealth Rugby 7s competition when the competition starts tomorrow. Namibia has been pitted against defending champions New Zealand, plus Wales and Kenya in Pool A. Despite the fact that New Zealand are experiencing one of their worst seasons on record, with current form leaving them ranked fourth in theÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ºIRB Sevens competition, they are still one of the favourites to win the competition and Namibia should struggle to get a result against them. New Zealand sit behind South Africa, England and Fiji, all three of whom will stand in the way of a continuation of their unbeaten streak in Commonwealth Rugby 7s competition. New Zealand’s strongest early round challenge is likely to come from Wales, who are in good form after a victory over England last weekend. Sevens rugby is a core sport of the Commonwealth Games and it enjoyed huge crowds in Manchester in 2002. Sevens is also a participant sport in most other major multi-sport Games, including the World Games and Asian Games. Tournament top seed is New Zealand, who under coach Gordon Tietjens won its sixth consecutive IRB Sevens series last season. New Zealand also travel to Melbourne as defending Commonwealth Games champions, having won the gold medal in Manchester in 2002. The 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens champions and 2005 World Games champions Fiji, who won the silver medal in Manchester in 2002, are the second seeds. Waisale Serevi’s men pipped England to second spot in the 2004/05 IRB Sevens series and head a competitive Pool B, which will see Fiji face Scotland, Canada and Zambia. England top Pool C as third seeds and are sure to face a committed challenge from home favourites Australia, who have made no secret of the fact that the Melbourne showpiece looms large in their rugby calendar next year. The Cook Islands and Sri Lanka complete this fascinating pool line-up. Pool D is headed up by South Africa, who finished the 2004/05 IRB Sevens season strongly with a victory at Twickenham, London. John Schuster’s Samoan outfit will provide South Africa with a stern challenge in a tough pool that also comprises Tonga and Uganda. As was the case for the 2005 RWC Sevens, the selection of the top eight seeds was determined by the most recent IRB Sevens rankings, namely, the final standings in the 2004/05 season. The remaining eight places were allocated using a number of considerations including IRB Sevens results since 2002, RWC Sevens qualification results, regional Sevens competitions and the likely strength of squads made available for the Games. The Rugby Sevens competition at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games will be truly world class, with seven of the top ten world ranked international Rugby Sevens teams set to compete, it was revealed today. With Rugby Sevens tickets still up for grabs, Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Chief Executive Officer, John Harnden, believes ticket holders to any of the four sessions, which will be held on the first two days of the Games, will certainly see plenty of top class action. “With such a high quality line-up, and each session having between eight and twelve matches to see, fans will definitely experience the thrill of what Rugby Sevens is all about,” said Harnden. “It’s exciting to inform Rugby Sevens fans around the world about the games they are going to see and it’s equally exciting that world class Rugby Sevens competition returns to Australia for the first time in a number of years. “Today’s announcement of the schedule – with just 153 days to go until the Opening Ceremony of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games – will certainly give fans a taste of what is to come in March,” he said. Melbourne 2006 will be the third time Rugby Sevens has been played at the Commonwealth Games. It made its debut in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and in 2002 in Manchester, Sevens enjoyed some of the biggest crowds of the Games. Head of Rugby Services at the International Rugby Board, Mark Egan, is excited about the calibre of international competition headed to Australian shores. “Rugby Sevens is a sport in its own right and is now a core sport of the Commonwealth Games due to its popularity. Fans from across the globe and those that travel to Melbourne are in for a real treat as 16 of the world’s best teams come together to put on a great spectacle,” said Mr Egan. The 16 nations to compete at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games are: Australia, Canada, Cook Islands, England, Fiji, Kenya, Namibia, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Uganda, Wales, Zambia. The schedule for this Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens tournament will result in some great competition highlights, including the much anticipated battle against defending Commonwealth and current IRB Sevens champions, New Zealand and defending Commonwealth silver medallists and current Rugby World Cup Sevens holders Fiji. Also expected to be in the medal mix are England, Samoa, South Africa and Australia. The tight Rugby 7s field, which includes 10 of the world’s top 15 teams, will see four thrilling sessions of high-speed action contested at the Telstra Dome on 16 and 17 March.

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