LONDON, ENGLAND – The IRB HSBC 7s have heard London Calling to the farway towns... and answered. The Marriott London 7s are the last and final stop of the 7s series. In a way it is rather fitting because the previous stop took us to Scotland; the birthplace of 7s, before leading us here to Jolly Ol’ England; the birthplace of rugby.
It looks like the AIG New Zealand All Black 7s have won their fourth consecutive series – spurred by winning 4 of the stops (half of all the stops) this year – essentially locking up their 12th title in the 15 years of the 7s World Series – though the South African Blitzbokke are still mathematically alive. It seems highly unlikely, though, as it would require South Africa to win it all in London and for New Zealand to perform as poorly as the USA did Glasgow.
It’s back to the tattered drawing boaord for Team USA after an abysmal time in Scotland. All the goodwill and faith garnered from the Asian swing was lost in Glasgow. Making matters worse, the Eagles’ northern neighbors, Canada, kicked the USA in the teeth by advancing all the way to the Cup Final before bowing out to the All Blacks 7s.
USA 7S Going Forward
Slow Starts Again – @$%! It was like a bad dream. The USA’s being slow out the gate was a problem many thought they had solved. They must have hit snooze when they saw themselves starting with Spain. It is really frustrating, as many of us so-called experts believed that this was way in the past. Not so, and the importance of starting off well and finishing the series on a positive note is critical to any sense of hope for the program.
Coach Hawkins – Very disappointing performance from his charges. Always difficult to determine how much you can put on the coach and how much is on the players. However, his guys didn’t show-up ready to play. That they reverted back to their old “unable to get out of their own way” selves for that fair chunk of time must be placed at Polar Bear’s feet… or paws.
Ending on High Note – This is the final stop for this year’s series. It is important that they show some pride in the jersey and finish strong. How they finish here can be used as a counter to negative arguments. Maybe they can give fans hope that they are capable of qualifying for Rio because at this point, it looks like they will need boatloads of help.
Team changes (+/-) – No changes. The 12 that were responsible for the disaster in Glasgow are the same 12 for London. When the squad was named on April 28th, it the group was selected for both stops. Would other countries make changes despite the travel costs? Possibly. But this is not the USA Rugby way at this juncture and this should not be seen as a vote of confidence for this group.
UPDATE: Courtesy of friends Grant Cole and ThisIsAmericanRugby.com, we can confirm that Carlin Isles in for the injured Mike Te’o and Madison Hughes is finished with finals in time to replace Ryan Maytas.
Optimistic View – The Asia swing showed improvement and this [Scotland] was a minor growing pain and a lesson in consistency. It was a fluke performance and the USA will get back to being better soon.
Cynical View – Asia was the fluke. A fluke positive performance. Judging by performance record, outside of those two tournaments the USA did not finish high enough to be awarded double-digit points for their place in the tournament standings. Meanwhile, Canada has a double digit finish at every stop.
RWU View – Will the real Eagles 7s team please stand up! This has been a nightmare season for fans. We don’t know what the team is. Is it one developing under a young coach? Or a collection or mediocre players anchored by a few really good ones, coached by a guy out of his depth? We don’t believe the situation is as bad as that but we need some results – especially on this last stop – to give us some to feel good about.
Going Forward – Team Captain Zach Test, along with veterans Brett Thompson and Nick Edwards, are under fire. If the team under-performs again, it is well and truly possible one of these 3 won’t be back next season. Get the ball to the playmakers and game breakers and playing good D are the keys. There needs to be a proper root to branch report on the whole Eagles 7s organizational structure this season. This must deal with the player development, scouting and handling of current players and prospects. Plus 3 coaches in 3 years is horrid for any program so Polar Bear must stay. He will have a year under his belt so he must have a better idea of all the it requires for the team to be successful. Also, along with the report, a detailed post-mortem on the season and what went wrong and what frailties exposed.
London 7s – There is no way New Zealand will have an epic collapse. If they have shown anything it is that they have a killer instinct like no other. South Africa has done a great job to keep within touching distance all season but I don’t see them overtaking the Kiwis, the 11th and soon to be 12th time champion. Take out a second mortgage and take it to the bookies, its in the bag. Let us preview each pool, as we have done all season.
Here are our pool previews
In a really tough group, you have to go with pedigree and form. New Zealand will top the group as they have all series. England will get a home town rise like Scotland did last week and are too good of a side to be poor at home. Argentina will duke it out with Wales and you just have to believe Argentina will find a way to sneak out the win.
Canada will continue their rich vein of form and top the group. Kenya will continue the struggle to find form but do just enough to finish second. The optimism of a good USA performance has diminished in a tough group it is difficult to see where they will find the ability to finish in the top two. Beating Samoa and avoiding last place will be a test in of its self.
Fiji will easily win this pool. The gap in class between Australia and Fiji is greater than the gap between Australia and the bottom two of Spain then Japan. Japan might be able to surprise Spain but they are so new to the tour that it is unlikely.
South Africa will be desperate to make the Kiwis work for every minute of their matches so expect them to come out on fire. France are finding form and will be in the hunt in second place. Scotland will come crashing back to earth as they will not be able to repeat the heroics of last week and will finish third. They will still be better than Portugal.
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
Series Winner: 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.