Britain unseeded in Sevens

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The Independent Online
Against all expectations, Great Britain are to send a squad to the World Sevens in Sydney at the start of next month, which could make a nonsense of the organisers' seedings, writes Dave Hadfield.

Understandably, in view of the uncertainty about the strength of the party, Britain are not among the eight seeds for a competition which has this year expanded to a record 34 entrants. The seeded side in their group are St George, beaten in the final last year by Manly, who are again rated as favourites.

The real eye-opener in the pre-tournament rankings, however, is the way that various newcomers' chances are being assessed. The Auckland Warriors, yet to play a competitive match, are ranked second behind Manly - a tribute to the strength of the squad that John Monie has assembled. Apart from his Wigan contingent and the cream of talent from New Zealand, Monie has enlisted Australians of the calibre of Greg Alexander and Phil Blake.

Other names among the seeds are those of Fiji and Western Samoa, both in the novice stage as far as their aspirations in the 13-a-side game are concerned, but well-equipped for sevens.

Another of the new Winfield Cup sides also figures, with the South Queensland Crushers rated eighth. That is again a commentary on their recruitment, which has seen the former Castleford coach, Darryl Van de Velde, invest in a number of rugby union players, as well as in Mike Ford and St John Ellis from his old club.

It might seem something of a snub to rate Great Britain below sides that have yet to lace a boot in anger, but the organisers would not have done so if they had known that the likes of Martin Offiah and Denis Betts would be making the trip. The incentivefor Gary Hetherington's side is that they can upset all the calculations.