GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Welcome to the official Granddaddy of 7s Tournaments. Last time, we called the Hong Kong 7s the paternal granddaddy but to avoid confusion, we’re downgrading HK, to just the Daddy. The Scottish butcher that helped create this 7 v 7 tournament could never have envisioned 7s to be what it is now. The IRB HSBC 7s World Series is right up there with Motor Sports series like F1, Motocross and Rally-cross, as one of the premier global sports series.
Yet, I digress…
The USA had a very good tournament in Hong Kong by making their 2nd Cup quarterfinals, though they lost that match with Fiji and were subsequently knocked out in the Plate Semi-finals by South Africa. They did collect 10 points to add to their series point tally… Meanwhile. New Zealand won their third tournament so that they are firmly tightening their grip on this year’s title. It will now take a shocking performance by the AIG New Zealand All Black 7s team in Glasgow and the following stop in England to give the number 2, South African Blitzbokke, any chance at the title.
USA 7S Going Forward
Positive Starts and Momentum: It’s not that we are never happy with the performances of Team USA players – we just want continuous improvement. They had a solid first day. They played well, started matches well, got critical early points and earned a place in cup quarterfinals. It is keeping that momentum and starting the second day as well that appears. It is not easy busting a gut on day one then waking up on day 2 to face Fiji. However, that is what is next of the checklist if top tier status is to be achieved.
Coach Hawkins: After a torrid beginning, with more help now in place, it looks like the Polar Bear has gotten the boys playing well. Considering that Alex Magelby got last year’s side to click at about the same time last season, celebrations must be tempered. However, after an abysmal start to their series, it is good to see quality consecutive performances in games and tournaments.
Finish Strong: 24 of the USA’s 37 Series points have come from the last two stops. Yet it would take a Herculean effort for this year’s team to get close to last year’s 71 point total. But they are riding a good wave of momentum and if they can finish with a high points total, the program will be in better shape at the end of the season than it has been for a long time… because of the stability at coach. That has been a problem.
Team changes (+/-): Two changes. Military World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) member and thrice-capped Eagles 15s flyhalf Will Holder joins the team in place of Madison Hughes of Dartmouth, who had to return to school and finish his final exams. Nu’u Punimata will replace Marcus Satavu. Satavu was part of the successful Asian swing, but Punimata was with the side earlier in the series. Some would say Coach Hawkins is changing a winning formula, others argue it keeps everyone on their toes as competition makes everyone better.
Optimistic View: We have had successful back-to-back tournaments and Glasgow could just be this team’s breakout party; much like it was last year. It took longer than hoped but it is all coming together.
Cynical View: Glad we finally got to where we should have been a long time ago! However all we have done is between teams that we should be beating anyway. We need to start looking toward beating the top tier teams and the teams “we shouldn’t be beating.”
RWU View: The team appears to be getting into their groove. It is a shame it is at the back end of the tour, however we will take. However the job is far from done and they now is to finish with a Cup, 2nd, 3rd or at the very least another plate. A major scalp in the process would be huge too.
Going Forward: Zach Test is now the team captain and his play on the pitch has justified him being the first name on the team sheet. Veterans Brett Thompson and Nick Edwards must also continue their resurgent form. The addition of Holder will be interesting as he was one of the best #10s in college, which led to his 15s call-up a couple of years back. At the level, he was found to be a bit too mechanical. If he has loosened that a bit he can be very useful in helping the side play to the coach’s structure while improvising in a jam. We are also waiting for Mike Te’o to show some of his x-factor ability and help the team steal a win… because Te’o does have that ability.
Glasgow 7s: The tournament could be the one that allows New Zealand to officially put it away and crush South Africa‘s dreams of and upset. However, if anyone but the top two win it, it helps New Zealand. So the pressure is on South Africa, though Fiji are still mathematically eligible to win, too. It wound take a titanic like disaster of performances by New Zealand for that to happen.
Here are our pool previews
With their poor performance in Hong Kong, South Africa have made this the pool of death. They maybe have to go through the All Blacks here and in the knockout round. In a tight one, it will be South Africa followed by New Zealand, then Samoa with Portugal being the pool’s whipping boy.
England has been consistently inconsistent this season. However, it seems when you look at their pool at the very least they should finish no worst than second with Canada the only other team that can pip them for the top spot in the pool. Newly promoted Japan will play in their second stop of this year’s series and they will likely get the same rude treatment by all the other teams and finish last behind the always dangerous France 7s side.
Fiji will take this pool in a walk. It will be a dogfight between Kenya and Argentina for the 2nd spot. Not sure who to give it to but Kenya have yet to hit their stride and show their potential so we will go with them. Wales appear rudderless and it is likely they are just playing out these next two stops so that they can review and overhaul their program in the off-season.
If the USA side that has been playing extremely well these last two stops shows up, then there is no reason to think they can’t win this pool. Australia will provide a stern challenge but based on home field advantage we are picking Scotland to come in second. Spain‘s painful season will come to an end soon and hopefully they will find their way back to elite 7s rugby.
With the Pools predicted, here is who we think will win hardware and go home with a bit of a smile and a deep fried mars bar.
Cup: South Africa
Second: New Zealand
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@ :RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.