Las Vegas Sevens preview

The fifth leg of the 2016 series takes place in Las Vegas, with Bryan Habana and Quade Cooper set to make their seasonal debuts

Las Vegas Sevens preview
Action from last year's Las Vegas Sevens between USA and Canada (image via: USASevens)

The 2016 Sevens World Series moves onto North America this weekend, with the fifth leg of the season taking place at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas

The inclusion of sevens in this summer's Rio Olympics has helped the spotlight on the shorter code to intensify, with a number of stars from the 15-a-side game joining the fun. 

So far the series has lived up to expectations, with four excellent legs complete. Fiji enjoyed success in Dubai during the season opener, with South Africa claiming victory a week later in their home tournament in Cape Town

Leg's three and four down under saw the Kiwis strike gold, firstly with victory on home soil in Wellington, before winning against hosts Australia in the final the following week in Sydney. 

Those results have led to a three-way tie at the top of the overall standings after four of 10 tournaments between South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji, adding to the excitement ahead of the Las Vegas leg this weekend. 

Habana and Cooper make seasonal debuts

Two of rugby's biggest names will be making their seasonal debuts this weekend, in the form of Toulon pair Bryan Habana and Quade Cooper. Habana is part of the South African squad, and will make his much awaited return to the Sevens circuit, having played in two tournaments 12 years ago. Cooper, meanwhile, will be making his debut in international sevens, having been left out of the final 12 after making himself available for the Sydney leg. 

Habana joins a Blitzbokke side which welcomes back Cecil Afika and Branco du Preez to their 12-man squad from injury, as well as captain Kyle Brown who missed the last two tournaments. The side still performed well in Wellington and Sydney without a number of their stars, which bodes well for their chances this weekend. 

Winger Savenaca Rawaca will lead the charge for Fiji once more (image via: zimbio)   

Defending champions Fiji are without Apisai Domolailai and Semi Kunatini as they go in search of their second win of the season. Rookies Josua Vici and Masivesi Dakuwaqa come into the squad and will make their international debuts, with the side hoping to bring some good news to their fans back home following Cyclone Winston which hit the island last week. The debutants will be ably assisted by a number of the better players seen on the circuit this year, Isake Katonibau, Pio & Jerry Tuwai, Osea Kolinisau and Savenaca Rawaca

Williams rested by Kiwis

Sonny Bill Williams has been rested by New Zealand, who go in search of their first tournament victory on American soil since 2008. Sione Molia and Josh van Lieshout will make their Sevens debuts for the All Blacks, whilst Liam Messam is in line to play for the first time in six years after taking a break for the 15-a-side game in hopes of an Olympic appearance. 

Dan Norton returns to the England lineup after missing Wellington & Sydney legs (image via: skysports)

There is mixed news on the injury front for England, who will be without their best player so far this year, Dan Bibby. Bibby is targetting a comeback in the final event of the year at Twickenham, having had surgery on the shoulder injury he picked up in Sydney. On the positive side, Phil Burgess, Charlie Hayter and try-machine Dan Norton return to the 12-man squad, which also includes debutant Harry Glover

Speedstars Perry Baker and Carlin Isles will both continue to light it up for the hosts, USA, whilst dark horses Kenya possess the most experienced squad in the competition with 344 tournament appearances between them. 

Draw coughs up big rivalries

North American rivals USA and Canada will battle it out in Pool D having been drawn together alongside tournament-favourites South Africa and outsiders Wales

Pool C sees Pacific Islanders Fiji and Samoa in a group together, alongside Argentina and France, whilst Pool B includes Australia, Japan and British duo England and Scotland

New Zealand will be favourites to top Pool A, which also includes Kenya, Portugal and Russia