DUBAI, UAE – The RWU World Rugby HSBC 7s in Dubai coverage continues. There will be no rest for the weary because this is one of only two 7s tournament that has both men and women. Thus the two separate previews. Since we covered the women in a separate preview, this will be about the fellas. We will look at Eagle 7s program and as we did all last season, try our luck at predicting the tournament standings – including the winner.
Every good performer knows to leave the crowd wanting more. After last season USA 7s Head Coach Mike Friday has left USA rugby fans demanding an encore and then some. Like the jealous girlfriends that they are, some USA Rugby fans are saying “but last year could have been a fluke. ” It is up to Friday, his top assistant Chris Brown, and national director, Alex Magelby to reach the same heights of last year and put USA in the running for a top four finish and an Olympic medal. As we prepare for the first stop on the tour, let’s look at the 3 key issues going into Dubai:
Team changes (+/-): There will be 3.5 new faces in the USA squad from the last match of the 2014/15 tour to the first match in Dubai. Brett Thompson, Will Holder, Kevin Swiryn are the 3 new faces and Zach Test is the half. All the changes are easily explained. Caveman lookalike Danny Barrett is injured and is replaced by tour veteran Thompson. University of Montana’s Martin Iosefo is also injured and that is why Holder is kind of there. Out of the self-imposed exile returns Kevin Swiryn. Swiryn was a former darling of the 7s program, gained a pro contract but then injuries dragged him down and forced retirement. After winning the Pan-Am and World Maccabi games for the USA in 7s, he pushed himself back to fitness and into the picture. Coincidentally just as Swiryn used 7s to be a springboard to a pro contract, Swiryn replaces Andrew Durutalo who left USA 7s for a pro contract overseas. The somewhat final change sees Zach Test return to the squad after missing the final leg of the tour in London due to injury. Test was replaced by Thretton Palamo, it was a forced change. When you look at all the changes the USA should not be that bothered by it. Thompson was a stud on the tour previously and earned a pro contract so he is more than adequate, Holder has been part of the player pool for a while and has tour experience and since Iosefo is not first choice, Holder might have won it outright if Iosefo was there. Swiryn is a weird mix of tour experience and fresh blood and Test is an upgrade considering he was named to the 2014/2015 series dream team. The real question is if the three (not including Palamo) were healthy would other players have missed out.
Hunter is now the hunted: This is the first tournament after the fantastic win in London. A whole off-seasons has passed and things have changed for the USA. They are now Olympic qualified and considered the top of tier group. The top tier is still the top four from last year (Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and England) but the USA is now just below them and everyone is gonna have something to prove. Teams that have something to prove like France, Canada and Argentina are gonna be gunning for the USA on an unseen level.
Win the first match: With so much pressure and following the poor performance of the USA Women this morning, it is imperative that the USA start out on fire. The value of a good day one will instill greater belief in the team and fans.
Optimist’s View: They make the semi-finals of the cup and then lose back to back to finish 4th.
Cynic’s View: They could likely get knocked out of the cup in quarterfinals and make the plate final before a loss.
RWU view: We lean toward the optimist view and see them either falling to 4th or at least winning the plate.
Going Forward: We see the USA team going 2-1 on Day 1, falling to New Zealand. They will then go 1-2 on Day 2 losing their first match but making it to the plate final
Last year the stop was the second on the tour and there was at least some performance to base predictions on. This year without such luck, we will look at the program’s pedigree, last years results and final standings and our good old gut instinct.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji wins Pool A with ease. They will be followed by Argentina, if they are not upset by Canada, since Canada beat Argentina when they last met. Formally core status Japan will be the pool whipping boy.
South Africa will take this group with relative ease. Scotland may put up a fight but it will likely still result in them finishing second. From there, Samoa can make reservations for third place with tournament new boys Russia bringing up the rear.
Being up to play New Zealand doesn’t mean the USA will win. They will likely fall short. The key is if they can fight off France and Portugal, who will be up to play them. If the USA has its wits about them, there should no problem with them securing second place with France finishing third. This leaves a feisty and determined Portugal side to finish last if they don’t upset France, which we don’t think they will.
This will be the tightest group to call. The top two will be England and Australia but we are not sure in what order that will be. Wales and Kenya are to programs trying to rebound from poor 2014 seasons it will be tough to figure out who starts the season better. We are putting Kenya in third because they finished higher last season.
Final standings will be:
Cup: South Africa
Third: 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, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.