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Wales Sevens face tough test

Wales Sevens face tough test

The Kiwi side are already being tipped as one of four title challengers in this, the opening tournament of the 2006-2007 IRB World Sevens Series in the Gulf state.

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For the youngsters in the Wales squad; four from the Wales U20 squad, there will be the experience of playing against some of the world’s best players and in front of a sell-out 32,000 crowd at the Dubai Exiles stadium: a marvel of temporary construction that grows in size year by year.

Conditions are not as hot as in previous years due to cloud cover lowering the temperatures and simultaneously threatening rain; a rare event in the history of the Dubai Sevens.

Wales Sevens Coach Dai Rees, who guided his side to success in the Bowl competition in the 2005 Dubai tournament, is fully aware that his youth players will have to develop quickly. “We have four players in our current U20 squad, all of whom could make progress. We are also fortunate in having players like Gareth Chapman and our captain Richie Pugh, who have experience of the game at this level,” added Rees.

Significantly, New Zealand have answered criticism of their lack of pace over the past two seasons by bringing in genuinely quick wingers: Willie Rickards of Southland and Rene Ranger of Northland.

Samoa, too, will be difficult opponents. Described as the most improved side on the circuit in the last two seasons, the Pacific Islanders contested the finals in London and Paris last season and in Timoreo Iosua had the top try scorer in the World Series with 40 touch downs.

Wales finish their first day’s play against The Arabian Gulf, who if not tipped to lift any titles will at least get the support of the massive crowd. Unquestionably, Wales’s presence at last year’s Dubai sevens will forever be linked with James Hook.

Dubai was the tournament that revealed the talents of the outside half to a world audience. Less than twelve months later he was playing for Wales as a senior international player. Will any of the current squad emerge in the same way? Games on Friday and Saturday will answer that question.

Wales Sevens Squad: Rhodri McAtee (Penzance), Lee Williams (Scarlets Academy), Martyn Thomas (Llanelli Scarlets), Gareth Chapman (Dragons), Richard Mustoe (Ospreys), Tom James (Blues Academy), Aled Thomas (Dragons), Alec Jenkins (Scarlets Academy), Richard Pugh (Ospreys) captain,  Jonathan Edwards (Llanelli RFC), James Harris (Dragons Academy), Lee Beach (Ospreys)

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