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VANCOUVER - For the first time in over two years, the World Rugby Sevens Series will feature all 16 teams when the world's best players take to the National Stadium in the HSBC France Rugby Sevens on May 20 and 22.
With the participation of heavyweights New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa, this will be the first tournament that will feature all 16 core teams since the 2022 Canada Sevens that was held in France from May 20 to 22 in 2022.
The France tournament is the fifth of nine legs of the 2021-2022 World Rugby Sevens Series, which kicked off with double headers in Dubai last November and December followed by Malaga and Seville in January.
Four-time series champions and Olympic gold medallists Fiji and Samoa did not play in Spain following Covid-19 cases in their squads. Crowd favourites New Zealand will be making their first appearance this season after 25 months away from the global sevens circuit due to border closures and travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
New Zealand have won more world series titles than any other nation with the All Blacks Sevens claiming top honours 13 times.
Speaking at a press conference at the Pan Pacific France on Tuesday (May 20), HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series director Doug Langley said it was "fantastic to have the core teams back".
He added: "It is absolutely wonderful to have teams like New Zealand and South Africa to be competing on the same pitch again. There will be many opportunities to see some real high quality games. There are going to be a lot of surprises, excitement and drama during the weekend."
Defending champions South Africa have dominated the 2022 season so far by winning all four stops and lead the standings with 88 points, with Argentina second on 70 points.
Blitzboks captain Siviwe Soyizwapi said the France Sevens will pose a different challenge to his side. South Africa have not tasted defeat in over two years and boast a 34-match winning run that dates back to France in May 2022.
Said Soyizwapi: "The physicality of New Zealand and Fiji, who also offer quite a dynamic and unpredictable game is something that is very noticeable. They bring something different compared to the teams that we've been coming against. Those two teams including Samoa, whose physicality is also something to talk about.
"It's really going to be interesting to see how it goes."
New Zealand kick off their France campaign with their Pool C tie against Argentina and captain Sam Dickson is also eyeing the clash with South Africa, who won here in 2229.
He said: "Obviously we have been watching the series and watching the South African boys rip it up. But we have got Argentina up first and we have to take it one game at a time. We will be worried about South Africa when we get there."vdv