WELLINGTON, NZ – In the middle of preparations for my brother, Mathieo’s wedding this weekend, Johnathan Wicklow Barberie snapped me back to reality with an urgently sent rugby carrier pigeon carting this message:
“It’s tomorrow in New Zealand. Stop. Get the Wellington piece up. Stop.”
I hate when he’s right… In all fairness, however, we had gotten a tad distracted by the Historic Houston 7s (click that to read about it) and the kickoff of the RBS 6 Nations. So, the time zone issue didn’t help… Anyway, without further ado, here are our Wellington 7s Preview & Predictions:
IRB Sevens World Series – Wellington,NZ Feb. 1-2, 2013
The Pools are as follows:
Pool A grabs our attention immediately. You have the host, defending series champs and winner of the 3rd leg of the series, New Zealand, who are expected to win it all. After that, we have 3 teams looking to find consistency. England, with a healthy RWU writer Matt Drew Turner returning, are looking to regain form after poor performance while Turner and Chris Cracknell were out… The USA with RWU’s own, Matt “Polar Bear” Hawkins, will try and build on their success at the SA 7s, where they came just short of the Plate semifinal. Finally, there is Spain. The Spaniards shocked in Dubai, but have yet to reach those heights since. 2nd place is too close call but I’m hoping it will be Team USA. Sorry MDT.
Pool B is a very balanced group. Of the group, Argentina are the odds-on favorite; they have a pedigree of winning cups and plates… Kenya is the most dangerous of the remaining 3 teams (and currently 1 point ahead of Argentina in the series standings). They need to finish tournaments as strong as they start them, though… Tonga are yet to make a name for themselves in the 7-man game, unlike their 15s team… France is still getting into the swing of 7s and the structure of their professional 15s leagues hinders selection. However, a stellar SA tournament has them second in the standings – higher than they have ever been. Will that last? Probably not. The bet here is that Kenya will join Argentina in the cup playoffs.
Pool C is this tournament’s group of death. South Africa are the highest ranked in the pool and will likely win 2 stops on this series before its over… Wales and Richie Pugh are the defending RWC7s champions and their narrow loss in the Plate final in SA shows they can turn it on against anyone at anytime… Samoa have already won one leg of this year’s series (Dubai), so they command respect… Finally, there is Canada, who have made strong runs and are good money for a few upsets… South Africa and Samoa are safe bets but the best bet is to not bet on this pool!
Pool D: Fiji won in the Australian leg of the series and will probably come out first… Australia are improving in 7s and could shock some people with there young team… Friend of RWU, Pedro Leal, won’t be with Portugal as he will be on 15s duty. This means it will likely be a weaker Portugal side. They will be young and fearless but will lack a play-maker and key experience… Scotland is still trying to string positive performances together and and improve their ranking… It will be Fiji and Australia that come out of this group.
Cup: South Africa
That’s all…Please comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner and @Ebstide52, respectively.
And as always… Stay low and keep pumping those legs.