NZ set for Olympic-style pressure

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 16/05/2014

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The Rio Olympics may be two years away, but New Zealand's women's sevens team get their first dose of Olympic pressure this weekend.

Only a win will be good enough to secure the world series crown in Amsterdam, with Australia only two points behind in the standings.

Should Australia finish above New Zealand, they will win the trophy for the first time, after New Zealand won the inaugural world series last year.

Coach Sean Horan said this year has been about developing depth in the women's sevens setup, but now that the pressure to win a single tournament is on, he wants his team to rise to the pressure.

That's what will be expected in 2016, when the team travel to Rio with only one expectation - gold.

New Zealand certainly raised their game in the last round of the world series in China, blitzing all-comers in taking the tournament title.

The previous two rounds in Atlanta and Sao Paulo had been more difficult, with other teams adopting New Zealand's swarming defensive tactics.

On attack New Zealand struggled to create chances, and were often cut off before they could find their explosive outside backs.

In China that changed, as the girls played with more creativity and adapted better to the defensive structures in front of them.

Portia Woodman was unstoppable in China, scoring 12 tries in six games, and will look to do more of the same this weekend in Amsterdam.

Her combination with reigning world player of the year Kayla McAlister is explosive, while 17-year-old Gayle Broughton adds even more fire power off the bench.

The Kiwis play Ireland, Spain and the United States in pool play, starting at 11.04pm today against the US.

Australia are the only team to have beaten New Zealand this year, although the Canadians also pose a threat if the sides are to meet.

The finals of the Amsterdam Sevens will be held on Sunday morning NZ time.

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