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Rugby sevens preview – 4 August

04 August 2002

The rugby sevens competition reaches its climax today in the final sporting event at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Eric Rush

New Zealand's Eric Rush

In the evening the Closing Ceremony will bring the Games as a whole to an end.

A sell-out crowd will see two semi-finals and a final featuring three of the teams tipped for medals, New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa, and one relative outsider, Samoa, who unexpectedly pipped Australia in the quarter-finals on Saturday night.

But there will be no England for the home crowd to cheer on. They lost to Fiji in one of the tightest last-eight games.

As for the eventual gold medallists, it’s still hard to look further than New Zealand. Apart from one defensive lapse in the first minutes of the very first pool game, they have consistently looked skilful and ruthless in equal measure.

Marshalled expertly by their 37-year old skipper Eric Rush, every member of the squad looks capable of making and converting opportunities. Samoa have the unenviable task of meeting them in the first semi-final of the afternoon.

In the other, Fiji come up against South Africa. Fiji stuttered a little on Saturday, losing to Australia in the last pool game and going behind against England in their quarter-final.

But what matters is that they are still in the competition and their power and flair remain a potentially golden combination.

South Africa, too, had a close scrape against Canada, only scoring their winning try in the dying second, and showed occasional defensive frailties. But on the attack, they’re a potent force and cannot be ruled out.

Info News Service/sm/pjt

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