Powell and Vickerman begin the Sevens’ worldwide journey to Rio

Rugby sevens’ four-year cycle towards Rio 2016 begins in Australia this weekend with its most successful coach relishing an enhanced global profile for the sport.

The HSBC International Rugby Board World Seven Series is nothing new.

It has been part of rugby union’s calendar since 1999 at venues like Dubai, Las Vegas, London, Wellington and Australia’s Gold Coast, where the action begins on Saturday.

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But the next four years are huge for sevens, a period that culminates with the Rio Olympics but also includes next summer’s World Cup in Moscow. New Zealand continue to dominate the sport, winning their 10th series title last season and heading into another campaign with principal rivals Fiji, South Africa, Samoa and England still chasing them.

Former Leeds player Rob Vickerman will captain the England Sevens side this year, while Sheffield-born Tom Powell is a member of the squad.

England, Wales and Scotland will all be in action this weekend, with England drawn alongside Samoa, Kenya and Spain, Wales in with Argentina, France and Portugal, while Scotland must tackle Fiji, Australia and Tonga. “Competition is high for selection, and it has been well-documented how fit and strong our squad are,” said England head coach Ben Ryan, who has 19 full-time sevens players to select from.

“But it won’t win you tournaments if you get out there, look great in the tight shirts and then run around without a clue.

“The fitness, speed and sheer athleticism of our players often gets top billing, but it only tells a small part of our story. Our players these days, to be the best, need to get their conditioning and their nutrition spot-on.”