Captain Tim Mikkelson is wary of the threat posed to his All Blacks Sevens side by hosts Australia on the first day of the world series tournament in Sydney.
Fresh off victory in Wellington last weekend – their first world series title for a year – third-placed New Zealand have an extra spring in their step heading into round four of the 10-leg series.
Mikkelson will again lead a team stacked with Super Rugby quality, including Wellington stand-outs Akira Ioane, his brother Rieko, Ardie Savea, Ben Lam and Sonny Bill Williams.
However, he notes Australia will be considerably stronger than the side who punched above their weight in Wellington.
The Thunderbolts lost their quarter-final but finished with five wins from six games to effectively place sixth.
A number of key players return, including captain Ed Jenkins and dangerous runner Cam Clark.
There is no room for Olympic hopeful Quade Cooper, with the Wallabies playmaker deemed too raw to make his sevens debut this weekend, but Mikkelson says the hosts will nevertheless be a handful in the final pool game on Saturday.
“They have a great mix in their squad, and I think they will go well this weekend,” Mikkelson said.
“They are physical, competitive and have the big boys in the forwards and the pace and the skills in the middle.
“We always find it hard playing them, but I think they will go well and hopefully we can both go through from our pool.”
Their other pool opponents are relative lightweights Canada and Portugal, who will find it hard to contain the extra size and power coach Gordon Tietjens has introduced.
Tietjens has indicated physicality will form the framework of their playing style at the Rio Olympics.
New Zealand trail leaders South Africa and Fiji in the world series standings.