New Zealand, South Africa among favourites for Oktoberfest sevens in Munich
New Zealand and South Africa will both field strong squads in the unlikely location of Munich at this weekend's Oktoberfest 7s as part of their fine-tuning for the World Sevens Series.
The 15-a-side Rugby World Cup gets underway in Japan this weekend, but the world's top sevens team will clash at Munich's Olympic Stadium against the backdrop of the world famous beer festival.
Off the pitch, kegs will be tapped when Munich's Oktoberfest starts Saturday, but on the rugby field some of the world's top sevens specialists will be in action.
Olympic and world sevens series champions Fiji, Australia, the USA, France, England and host nation Germany are among the eight teams in the Bavarian capital.
The All Blacks face South Africa's, Australia and England in a red-hot Pool A in Saturday's group games to decide Sunday's knock-out stages.
All Blacks coach Tomasi Cama sees the Munich tournament as the perfect test ahead of a season which starts in Dubai with the World Sevens series in December and culminates with the Tokyo Olympics next July.
"Being able to play against the world's best in a tournament like this is so valuable especially when we are going into such a big season," said Cama.
He has named just two uncapped players in the All Blacks squad alongside experienced forwards Tone Ng Shiu, Sam Dickson and back Regan Ware.
South Africa also promise to be a force with fleet-footed Siviwe Soyizwapi leading a Blitzboks squad which includes regular stars such as Branco du Preez and Chris Dry.
Defending champions Australia, who won the inaugural Oktoberfest 7s in 2017, are using Munich to warm-up for the Olympic qualifier for Oceania teams in Fiji in early November.
Rebels winger Jack Maddocks, who is on stand-by for a World Cup berth, left the Wallabies' squad in Japan to link up with the Australians in Germany.
Fiji are looking to blood some developing talent with five Under-20 players in their squad.
For European champions Germany this is a chance to prove they can host a international tournament, strengthening hopes of hosting a leg of the World Sevens Series.
Germany qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the 2019 European Grand Prix Series in July and are ambitious.
Having punched above their weight to reach the quarter-finals in Munich two years ago, the Germans face a massive challenge in Pool B against the lightning-fast USA, France and Fiji.
"It's a spectacular field and a clear step up on 2017," said Germany's playmaker Fabian Heimpel.
"We are certainly the underdogs, but showed two years ago that we can be annoying for the big guys," he added after the Germans shocked England in the group stages in 2017.