Las Vegas, USA: Though two weeks earlier than normal, we are in Las Vegas. We are here because of The Las Vegas (USA) 7s tournament, the fourth stop of the IRB HSBC Sevens. Our latest tradition at RWU when it comes to the 7s circuit is to tackle a few talking points from the previous stop from a USA Rugby perspective and preview the entire tournament. So keeping with this new tradition, lets look at the previous stop.
The South Africa 7s tournament for the USA was another frustrating experience. Here are several points of discussion.
Slow Start: Not looking to beat a dead horse but the slow starts call attention to themselves. It is unacceptable that the USA is expected to have a slow start in every tournament. The US is not good enough to spot teams early leads and dig ourselves out of a hole. There needs to be a greater sense of urgency. Not sure how it gets done but something new needs to be tried.
Coach Hawkins: We are glad to see Matt “Polar Bear” Hawkins is firmly on the sidelines, however the learning curve that he is struggling to overcome is distressing. Former Eagles 7s head coach, Alex “Mags” Magleby, had to overcome a learning curve too, so there is hope. However, 1-9 in the last two tournaments, makes it appear that he is in. over his head right now. He needs a positive showing to prove there is progress.
Performance: The team has looked totally outclassed in the majority of their games. It is not just being close and lacking an edge, they guys look lost, like they are chasing shadows type stuff. The team seems to lose trust in each other and that leads to poor defense and individualistic attack. One of those two will hurt you, both combined, will lose you games.
Team changes (+/-): Hawkins has brought back Shalom Suniula which will be huge for the side as he is a a former captain and should provide leadership. Danny Barrett, a flanker from Cal has also joined the squad along with round 1 try-scorer Ryan Maytas returns. So 3 in, 3 out and they have some experience at that. The problem is these will again be unfamiliar with their new teammates. This will make the team’s attempt to gel, even more difficult.
Optimist view: We are nearing the midway point and they newly awarded contracts will bring fresh blood. We can expect to start turning the corner soon like last season.
Cynic view: We are almost at the halfway point and no real fan can say they are confident. All this new blood is great but if these guys aren’t delivering let’s go get some vets. We can’t avoid to yield anymore games.
RWU view: It may not be time to panic but we are allowed to worry. Coach Hawkins is showing passion and frustration but is that enough? We are nervous and would like to see something to feel good about.
Going Forward: Veterans Nick Edwards, Zack Test, Carlin Isles and RWU 2014 Player to Watch Brett Thompson must lead. We are not blaming the struggles on them but this is when veterans and captains grab the bull by the horns and make things happen.
From the world perspective, the play at the SA 7s was great and has made the overall series more tightly contested. As for the USA 7s, the tournament itself keeps breaking its own previous year’s attendance records. We hope it continues! Moving it to Vegas was a stroke of genius. Here are our pool previews.
Riding an emotional high, help SA win the whole tournament in SA but they won’t have that with them this time, hence their predicted 2nd place finish. The Kenyans are fan favorites in Vegas and that should power them to the top. Canada are improving but are in a tough group so this is the best they can do. Wales have just had a coaching change and that is tough in the middle of a series.
This group is the group of death for this round. The AIG New Zealand All Black 7s will win this group as they always do. Ben Ryan’s Fiji is too dangerous a proposition to be slowed down by Australia. Australia have been having a great series but on paper the Kiwis and the Fijians seem like to much for them. Scotland were unfortunate to be drawn into this group and will only be cannon fodder.
This group was rather straight forward. The superior English will top it, while Samoa shows that they are able to turn it on when necessary. Portugal is improving and this tournament will prove that. A mid-season coaching change is usually a positive bump but not in this case. It will be a bridge too far for the Welsh.
The Argies have a rich history of success at the USA 7s and this weekend will be proof of that. The USA, France and Spain are extremely close in ability so it will be a tight race. We hope for a home field bump for the Eagles that will put them in 2nd and a coin toss decided the 3rd and 4th place between France and Spain.
With the Pools predicted, here is who we think hits the jackpot and walks away for Vegas as winners as well as the standings projections
Second: New Zealand
That’s it for now… feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.