DJ Forbes fizzing for World Cup challenge
Sevens holds few surprises for New Zealand's veteran skipper DJ Forbes but he had a twinkle in his eye as he flew out of Auckland with his squad for the World Cup.
A lot of that had to do with just making the trip as he battled a foot injury to hold his place.
A fair bit of it had to do with getting a second chance at the World Cup after being part of the 2009 disappointment in Dubai.
But plenty of his excitement simply lay with the destination. For a well-travelled man, he was looking forward to what was at the end of the draining 30-hour flight north.
"I never, ever thought we'd be playing rugby in Moscow or playing rugby in Russia," mused Forbes.
"It's one place I haven't ticked off, so it's going to be pretty interesting. It's going to be something different ... it's a great opportunity. But in saying that, we're there to do the business, so no sight-seeing for us.
"But this is what sevens has created. It's a spectator sport, it travels the world, this is a global event and the scene is really set for this World Cup."
New Zealand will arrive as the headline act, having won another World Series title - their 11th in 13 years - and, importantly coming off victory in the season finale in London.
Forbes missed that tournament and the previous one in Scotland as he was given every opportunity to overcome the plantar fasciitis - painful soft tissue problem on the sole of the foot - that sent him home from the Tokyo tournament at the end of March.
Forbes faced a gruelling training camp in Mt Maunganui this week to convince coach Gordon Tietjens he was up to the demands of the World Cup, which will run over three days from Friday.
"It's been kind of one of the worst injuries, with the amount of running we do, it's jot ideal Titch wanted to make sure I'd got over my injury so he put me through a few tests and I came up pretty good. I'm still here standing with the boys and, believe me, that's pretty pleasing.
"I'm really excited about being back in the mix and I'm really looking forward to having a crack at the cup."
Forbes says converting their World Series dominance into World Cup glory is the challenge and he knows how hard that is, having watched Wales emerge as surprise champions four years ago.
"Everyone knows it's a different kettle of fish now - the World Series doesn't count for much, we need to do the job.
"It's just handling the pressures of whoever we play, because they will treat it as a final."
Forbes listed Fiji and South Africa as the main threats but stressed that any side, from Kenya through to the United States, could cause upsets.
"Everyone knows how competitive this game is now. There are no easy games any more."
The New Zealand women's team, winners of the first World Series, leave tonight for Moscow.
Men's squad: Pita Ahki, Kurt Baker, Tomasi Cama, Sam Dickson, DJ Forbes, Bryce Heem, Gillies Kaka, Tim Mikkelson, Waisake Naholo, Lote Raikabula, David RaikunaSherwin Stowers.
Women's squad: Kelly Brazier, Sarah Goss, Vaine Greig, Honey Hireme, Linda Itunu, Huriana Manuel, Kayla McAlister, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Alexis Tapsell, Selica Winiata, Renee Wickliffe, Portia Woodman.