New Zealand men off to winning start at Hong Kong Sevens

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More than 120,000 fans will gather at Hong Kong Stadium from today through Sunday for the seventh leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series, which welcomes 40 teams from 34 countries - making this the world's largest congregation of rugby unions in 2019.

Fiji coach Gareth Baber said he expected an especially fierce tournament with teams chasing a top-four finish and a ticket to Tokyo next year.

South Africa, third on the overall standings, also started with a win, defeating Japan 22-7 in Pool A.

Rodrigo Freudenthal and Rodrigo Marta had tries for the invitational Portuguese side.

They face host Hong Kong next at 7:12 p.m.

Captained by Helen Nelson, they defeated Belgium 31-12 in Pool A in the opening match of the tournament, scoring five tries, then lost 27-19 to Japan in their second game.

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Only the tournament victor earns a place in next season's World Rugby Seven Series.

Australia will now need to beat both Fiji and Kenya in their remaining pool games on Saturday to progress to the same-day finals.

Yesterday, the Cooks were beaten by Chile 31-5 and Germany 10-7.

Speaking at the captains' launch United States of America captain Madison Hughes said: "It's been a good run with four cup finals to kick off the year, getting the win in Vegas and making the semi-final in Vancouver and that's the key for us in targeting the top four. We have got a tough pool and we are not taking anything for granted but we are excited and ready to get going here in Hong Kong". "We're confident. There's a lot of good teams here, especially a lot of the top ones that are coming for us".

"Here we are sitting in first place". "Obviously an Olympic year is huge for everybody".

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The players all played a practice round at Augusta National on Friday with the top 30 players moving on to Saturday's final round. Even with her mind on the silver bowl for the victor , she took time to look around. "It's just awesome .

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