Good omen for Kiwis as Ioasa scores landmark try
England have the pace, but New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens believes the battle for the Hong Kong Sevens will be won in the forwards after the opening salvoes were fired on a day when the 11,000th try in the history of the IRB Sevens was scored by Kiwi Tafai Ioasa.
'The crucial area will be up front. This game is all about possession and the side which dominates in the forwards will have the advantage. The set pieces will be crucial,' said Tietjens after the Kiwis had eased to a 48-0 win over Japan.
Ioasa, appearing for the fourth time at the Hong Kong Sevens, got the honour of scoring the 11,000th try in the series when he crossed over for New Zealand's second try of the match.
'The word is out that I'm going to get a sponsors car. I hope the Mercedes will be delivered to New Zealand,' joked Ioasa. It was quite an accomplished display from New Zealand when one considers that Japan are no pushovers. But despite the wet conditions, the Kiwis scored eight slickly worked tries, two of them by new boy Sosene Anesi who showed he has the pace to match England fliers like Richard Haughton and Neil Baxter.
The other new face in the New Zealand lineup, Tanerau Latimer also got his name on the scoresheet after coming on as a second half substitute. The last member of the new brigade, Rudi Wulf, may not have scored, but he showed enough class and is certain to be a thorn in the opposition over the next two days.
'I'm happy with our performance. It is vital in these early games to score as much points as you can,' said Tietjens. 'I'm especially pleased with new guys.'
New Zealand rested Eric Rush. Appearing for a record 15th time in Hong Kong, Rush picked up a leg injury during training. As a precaution, he was kept on ice. 'We want to give the old fella a rest. We will use him for the big games,' smiled Kiwi skipper Matua Parkinson. 'Actually he is fit as a fiddle and is in quite good nick.' Keeping Rush company in cold storage was Justin Wilson. The winger has been struggling with a calf injury since arriving in Hong Kong and the Kiwi camp decided to give him an extra day off to get over his ailment.
The Kiwi players got an extra boost when Jonah Lomu joined them on the touchlines at the end of the game. Emotions were running high as the players, some of them like Wulf meeting Lomu for the first, wished the rugby icon who is suffering from a kidney disease, well. Meanwhile Argentina, winners of the last leg in Los Angeles, got their campaign off with a 48-0 win over minnows Singapore.
'Of course, Singapore is not a strong team, but we played well and kept our shape. The conditions were not to our liking, so I was pleased with the way the boys played,' said Argentine captain Francisco Leonelli, who also opted to sit out the action yesterday 'I'm not injured. I was just resting and will play tomorrow.' Argentina will rely on their defence to sap the will out of their opponents.'