Sevens sides out for World Cup redemption

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2013

The NZ Women's Sevens team train at Luzhniki Stadium.

Selica Winiata
Getty Images
REDEMPTION: Selica Winiata is out to make up for New Zealand's heart breaking loss at the last World Cup.

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New Zealand's heart-breaking World Cup final loss four years ago burns deeply for Manawatu policewoman Selica Winiata as the Kiwis look to make amends in Moscow this weekend.

While much focus will fall on Gordon Tietjens' World Series men's champions, the women's team have been quick to make their mark as the sport's profile lifts ahead of its Olympics introduction in 2016.

The Kiwi women won their own World Series this year, claiming three of the four tournaments with Winiata the leading points-scorer. But she knows that will count for nothing as they look to negotiate the cup draw in Russia.

Four years ago, the women's World Cup was something of a novelty, a one-off event with the teams having little preparation.

New Zealand went all the way to the final in Dubai but lost in extra time to Australia.

Winiata, at 1.55m dubbed "Shorty" by her team mates, is one of four survivors.

"There are a few of us who have experience from 2009 and that experience is important," she said as New Zealand' trained in the shadow of the massive Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the World Cup this weekend.

"Losing in 2009 is always in the back of your mind, especially going into extra time and not getting the points on the board.

"Although, in saying that we haven't looked back too much. Since 2009 there has been a massive step forward in the women's game and this time around there are a lot more sides capable of winning the competition. If you don't perform you won't get through.

"We were obviously delighted with the World Series but that is something totally different. The World Cup is a big deal for us but we will just be taking it game by game. We have a tough pool and every game is going to test us so we're not taking anyone lightly."

Like their male counterparts, the women have had their struggles over the last year. They have lost to England and Australia and even been held to a draw by Russia.

That reflects their vulnerability in a one-off event. If you're off your game, then cup dreams can be dashed in an instant as the men have discovered, winning just one World Cup in 2001 as opposed to 11 World Series in 13 years.

The women have 16 teams involved this weekend while the men's draw takes in 24 countries.

Negotiating pool play shouldn't be a problem but the knockout phase is deadly.

Both New Zealand teams arrived early in Moscow to get used to a venue that is foreign to them. They have been hit by temperatures of 34-degrees and if the weather holds, they are in for a draining weekend.

New Zealand women's coach Sean Horan is happy with the way his squad has settled in.

"The team's going really well, they have acclimatised with the travel and are looking good," Horan said.

"We've been focusing on fine tuning our preparation - acclimatising to the heat, getting used to the conditions, getting our heads right and our bodies right.

"The key focus is just getting the girls confident. We have gone through a lot of over the last six months, and progressed well so it's just sharpening the sword and getting ready to enjoy ourselves."

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New Zealand at the World Cup Sevens, Moscow

POOL PLAY (NZ times)

Men

V Canada, tonight, 11.44pm

V Georgia, tomorrow, 5.44pm

V USA, Sunday, 12.20am

Women:

V Tunisia, tomorrow, 5pm

V Netherlands, tomorrow, 8.18pm

V Canada, Sunday, 2.32am.

- Stuff

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