Sevens' upward trajectory will tilt a little higher this weekend when Tokyo joins the IRB World Series, further expanding the sport's reach before the 2016 Olympics and the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
An exciting scrap at the top of the leaderboard could not be better timed for Japanese officials who have been urged to take drastic measures to raise the sport's popularity before the 15-a-side World Cup arrives in seven years' time.
New Zealand hold just a two-point lead in the standings, after a tight final loss to Fiji in Hong Kong last week showcased the potential of fast-flowing Sevens as it builds towards the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
It promises an absorbing return for the game's short form to Tokyo, which will host 16 teams at the 25,000-seat Prince Chichibu stadium, 11 years after its last full international Sevens tournament in 2001.
"Our return to Tokyo sees a very different sport," said International Rugby Board tournament operations manager Beth Coulter, according to the Daily Yomiuri.
"Back then, things were very different. There was no stability in terms of the number of core teams and tournaments. It is now an Olympic sport with players focusing on a gold medal in four years' time.
"Each year brings us closer to 2016 and the series is becoming increasingly important. It's exciting that Japan is one of the stops on the road to Rio."
Japanese officials have rung the changes, appointing Eddie Jones as head coach, since the Brave Blossoms failed to add to their sole 15s World Cup win in 1991 at last year's edition in New Zealand.
The latest failure sounded alarm bells about Japan's ability to pull off a successful event in 2019, when the World Cup will be held in a non-traditional rugby country for the first time.
But a vibrant and popular Sevens tournament could lift rugby's profile in Japan, and help cultivate a new generation of players.
New Zealand captain DJ Forbes said Tokyo could settle the entire nine-stop series, with just two further tournaments in Scotland and England.
"This weekend could be the decider of the World Series," he said.
"You would like to think it is between us two [New Zealand and Fiji]. But we have been in a position where we have snuck in there late, and we know South Africa and England will be keen to jump in there.
"It will be a big ask for them. We will try and make it a two-horse race and hopefully put ourselves on top."
The Kiwis went down 35-28 last weekend in their fifth final of the season, and saw their advantage slashed to 111 against 109 for Fiji, who dominated last weekend from their opener against Australia.
South Africa are on 93 points, England have 89 and Samoa 82. Both New Zealand and Fiji have won twice this season, while England and Samoa have taken the honours once each.
As the champions in Hong Kong, Fiji will lead the preliminary Pool A round robin competition against England, France and hosts Japan.
New Zealand, as the runners-up in Hong Kong, will lead Pool B against Australia, the United States and Hong Kong. They will open the tournament against the United States on Saturday.
Argentina, tied for eighth place with France on 57 points, will head Pool C against Wales, Kenya and Russia.
South Africa, whose highest finish was second in the third leg on their home turf, were drawn to face US round champions Samoa, Scotland and Portugal in Pool D.
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