So much at stake on the Gold Coast

EXPERIENCED All Blacks Sevens captain DJ Forbes believes this year's World Series, which kicks off on the Gold Coast today, will be the toughest and most competitive ever.

The All Blacks will defend their title as odds-on favourites but veteran campaigner Forbes (pictured) said all the other 15 competing countries would want to start "with a bang" by winning the Australian leg of the series.

With this year's series doubling as part of the qualification process for rugby seven's debut at the Rio Olympics in 2016, expectations are high at Cbus Super Stadium.

"We're excited for another year but we won't take anything for granted," Forbes said.

New Zealand begins today in a pool alongside France, before facing Japan and Samoa, while South Africa will take on Wales, American Samoa and Kenya.

Pool C includes Fiji, Australia, Scotland, and Portugal while England, Canada, Argentina and USA make up Pool D.

Australia will be looking for a flying start in its opening match against Portugal.

South African coach Neil Powell said his team's preparations had not been ideal but warned last year's runners-up would be "up for it".

With Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith all playing in the Currie Cup, Powell could only assemble his squad just before the team left for Australia

"This is a big season, not only for us, but for everyone," Powell said ahead of the event.

"I'm sure we will get a good taste over the weekend of what we can expect during the course of the season."