ATLANTA, USA – The HSBC World Rugby Women’s SevenS Series kicks off its 3rd leg in Atlanta this weekend. Luckily for all of us, this is no longer the penultimate leg of the tour, as an extra leg has been added. It’s now the midway point. However, the USA Women are still running straight into a headwind, partially of their own doing and this stop is critical if they want a top-four finish and good momentum going into the Rio Olympics. Let’s see how @USAWomens7s looks going in and take a stab at predicting the tournament.
In case anyone was not aware, Richie Walker was appointed Head Coach of the Women’s Eagles Sevens program through the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, following Jules McCoy’s release for reasons I’m not sure of. On the back of that news, here are three main issues that stand out going into this tournament for the women’s program and its new head coach:
NEW HEAD COACH!: Yes, I’m using all CAPS and an exclamation point because this move, at this time, cannot be underestimated. Sure, a mid-series coaching change has happened on the men’s circuit, but it rarely happens on the women’s circuit and creates loads of unnecessary challenges. It has never happened just months before heading to the Olympic Games. A new coach could mean players that are on the periphery are now in and vice versa, not to mention skills and style of play change.
Team Changes (+/-): Walker changed 5.75 players. The high number only gives credence to the different preferences of a new coach. We normally say .5 if it is not a complete change but we have .75 because one of the biggest changes is that there is a new captain. Kelly Griffin has been replaced by the inspirational Jillion Potter. Griffin has gone from captain to exile as she didn’t even make the squad list. Tour veteran Lauren Doyle replaces Griffin, Kate Zackary is in for Ashley Perry, college star Amelia Bizer replaced Joanne Fa’avesi and Nicole Heavirland and Richelle Stpehens have come in at the expense of Rachel Griendling and Naya Tapper.
Chemistry: Considering McCoy changed 6 players between the poor performance in Round 1 and the improved performance in Round 2, Walker’s 5 changes are a lot. All the players are in the pool so they won’t be totally new to each other but that is still considerable turnover tournament to tournament. The men for instance, have had no more than 4 changes and that was due to injury. Usually it is 2 or 3, so 5 seems like a lot, especially as they are not injury-forced. There are likely to be massive issues in that top 2% of the game, where game-winning and game-changing plays occur… because the USA players lack familiarity.
Optimist’s View: The team has decent first day and hangs tough in the second day to finish 6th.
Pessimist’s View: They have a poor first day getting to know each other and turn it on in the second day and finish 8th.
My View: They will likely finish 7th. I have no expectations of the coach and players because it is tough to predict what kind of team/play we will see out there.
Going Forward: The USA has a likelihood of going 1-2, then losing the first match on day two and finishing with another 1-2 record, going 2-4 overall.
Atlanta 7s Predictions:
With two tournaments completed, it has been come clear who is part of the leading pack and who is part of the chasing herd. There are some new teams, like Fiji, that are now garnering respect and proving to be dangerous and unfortunately they are taking down teams like the USA as a statement.
Here are the Pool Previews:
Australia should have no problem topping this group. The key challenge will be who finished second and third as Fiji and England will be a good tussle since England have struggled with consistency and Fiji is becoming more and more formidable.
Canada will top this group with ease. It will then be a dogfight for second. You want to say that Russia will have their act together more and claim second, but France has shown steady improvement and may nip the Russians for second. Ireland have been getting better and will not go down without a fight but they will go down.
New Zealand will top this group and break a sweat doing so. Spain are always tough and with the USA going through so much change they will likely use it to claim second over the USA. Japan are on an upward trajectory but will finish last in the group.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand
That is 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, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Ronan Nelson, Kyle Phillips and Declan Yeats, respectively
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.