Lukarisitone James Ng Shiu
Lukarisitone James Ng Shiu of New Zealand (Black) battles with Danny Barrett of USA during the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series at the Sevens in Dubai. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw was left reflecting on the positives after an under-par New Zealand opened the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series with a win at The Sevens Stadium on Saturday.

Winners of the Dubai Sevens on six previous occasions from 11 appearances here, the All Blacks had to dig in deep without the services of skipper Scott Curry, Akuila Rokolisoa, Regan Ware and Sam Dickson en route to a 21-5 win against the USA. However, the turning moment was their 7-5 semi-final win against England earlier in the evening. “That win [against England] was a huge confidence boost to a squad that suddenly saw the younger players mature in an instance,” Laidlaw told media after the final.

“There are heaps of positives to take from here on. It’s just the way we played and the way the younger players put their hands up to bring us to this place is so huge. There is so much that can be done with this squad. It’s hugely exciting,” he added.

But with injuries to some of his key players, Laidlaw’s focus is now to assemble a squad in time for the Cape Town Sevens to be held on December 8-9. “The first thing before us is to see how many players we can get back on their feet in the next 48 hours. We have to recover and find some players even if it means some of the younger ones just coming out of school back home. It all starts all over again and the main thing is we need to keep on with this consistency,” the coach remarked.

“We are not going to go ahead of ourselves, but just and find the correct rhythm as the season goes on. It is important that the boys try and spend some time together and enjoy each others’ company. There is huge amount of firepower back home and I am here to get a group assembled. It’s exciting times ahead for sure,” Laidlaw reflected.

New Zealand has won the World Rugby Sevens Series a record 12 times, while no other country has won more than twice. The 2019 World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series acts as a qualifying round to determine the top four teams to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“This win is up there with the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. To be without four main players and yet win shows some guts and determination from the boys. We spend a lot of time on the ‘culture’ and as a group. This may sound a bit cliché but each one knows what it means to play for this team. When we get that right, the older guys take the leadership and the younger guys just keep following behind. That’s like a step up today and this was really encouraging to see the younger ones coming through in such big games,” Laidlaw observed.

“Once the injured return, it certainly doesn’t mean we will win with those players. We had a much better team last year and we still lost. But it’s just that we have to grab those opportunities when they come along,” he added.