Birmingham Commonwealth Games: All Blacks Sevens embrace pressure of defending champions tag

While many Commonwealth Games champions would shirk the pressure of a gold medal defence, the All Blacks Sevens are relishing the pressure in Birmingham.

Four years on from New Zealand's double sevens gold on the Gold Coast, the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens enter the Birmingham Games with targets on their backs, as the rest of the world bids to dethrone the reigning champions.

But, as All Blacks Sevens captain Sam Dickson explains, pressure and expectation are par for the course of representing New Zealand - especially with gold medals on the line.

All Blacks Sevens captain Sam Dickson.
All Blacks Sevens captain Sam Dickson. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

"There's always pressure when you pull on a black jersey," Dickson said. "We look to embrace it.

"Not many have the opportunity to have that pressure and to wear the black jersey.

"We look forward to it, and embrace it to be honest."

But the All Blacks Sevens will face a rare challenge at the Commonwealth Games.

Unlike the Olympics, the removal of some of sport's global elite in the likes of USA, China and Russia doesn't dilute the competition at all.

Instead, sevens' traditional powerhouses are all present at Birmingham, and will all consider themselves as valid gold medal contenders.

"The best teams in sevens are here," said Laidlaw. "South Africa, Fiji, us and Australia.

"And if you put Samoa in there, who were in the semi-finals in London, you could argue the five best teams are in the Comm Games. 

"I think that's why it's so prestigious for sevens - the best teams are genuinely here. USA, France and Argentina have traditionally not been at the top of the sevens game.

"I think that's why New Zealand, Fiji and Australia in particular - and South Africa - love the Comm Games. It's a huge part of a country's sporting events every four years, not just in rugby, but in all sports.

"We're hugely excited with the opportunity to play."

The All Blacks Sevens face England, Samoa and Sri Lanka as part of Pool A, while the Black Ferns Sevens will also face England and Sri Lanka as well as Canada.

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