SINGAPORE – The World Rugby HSBC 7s series has touched down in the world’s only island city-state, Singapore. It has been 10 long years since Singapore hosted a leg on the Sevens Series. Since then the national stadium has been renovated and is a thing of beauty (its in the background of the above pic) and this year, Singapore is the 8th leg in the extended 10-city tour series. With the new stadium, the return of the 7s series and a massive concert series planned after each day of the tournament, it is going to be a great weekend in Sinkers.
The USA’s showing in the last tournament in Hong Kong was very good, but it was no different to how the USA had performed in previous tournaments. Consistently good but rarely great. In the Hong Kong recap, I discussed how the step up from being a competitive side to a top-tier side means dealing with narrow losses then turning those losses into narrow victories then regular victories and that the USA was mid-level in that progression right now. The program can be expected to qualify for the Cup playoffs with ease but that all important day 2 is still a crapshoot. Until day 2 success can be sorted out, winning a medal at the Rio Olympics is sorely in doubt.
Let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There is 1 change to the USA squad from Vancouver. Pat Blair comes in for Ben Pinkelman in Head Coach Mike Friday’s 12-player squad. Pinkelman had to return to Colorado State University to fulfill his academic commitments. The surprising non-change is that Carlin Isles is still injured so Nate Ebner, retains his place.
Second Leg Fatigue: In the second leg of the back to back weekend legs last season, the USA managed to have a better second leg than first leg 3 out of 4 times. Singapore marks the fourth back to back weekend this season and in the first 3 the USA tied a poor 8th place finish and finished worse than first leg in the other two weekends. This doesn’t bode well and if the USA is to take that next step, this is one of the things that require improvement.
To be the best, you got to beat the best: Same as last week. In order for the USA to get a into the Cup or win it, will have to knock off at least one of the top 4 teams. So in the Cup round, the USA will have to get over their nerves and believe in themselves in order to get a major scalp.
Optimist’s View: The Eagles get a good knockout round draw and win the first game of day 2 before losing the next two.
Cynic’s View: The Eagles continue to struggle against the big teams and in the second leg… finish 7th.
My View: I will go with the prediction from the Cynic last week, which was correct: Team USA loses in the Plate final.
SINGAPORE 7s (#SgRugby7s ):
This may be the most interesting leg yet. Top sides like Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand are banged up and are possibly there for the taking. The chasing pack of Australia, England and the USA smell blood in the water but will they have the class and composure to take down one of the Top 3. The drama and tension continue to build.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji will try and rotate some bench guys and reserves to get more time. This makes them much more likely to stumble in group play. It also means Fiji will finish second to England, who are finally starting to regain the form from last season. Samoa is still unpredictable but still a better bet than Portugal to finish third.
New Zealand has had to make a few changes to their squad, tournament poster boy DJ Forbes (above) has been rested to save him for Rio. Meanwhile, three other players were replaced due to injury. All these changes make the Kiwis susceptible to losing to the USA in pool play. However, the USA needs to have a better habit of beating sides traditionally better than them before I tab them to top the group. Canada will likely take third over France, who cannot regain their form from the start of the series.
South Africa will win this group with ease. Kenya will likely finish second, though they will face a stern test from Scotland – who will not take third place lying down. Bringing up the rear will be Russia, who are outclassed in this group.
Australia are head and shoulders above the other pool members so they will take first. Second place goes to Wales, who have been going from strength to strength. Argentina will finish third and Japan will be merely canon fodder in this group.
A live stream will be provided to viewers who want to watch the action on World Rugby’s website. And now, here are our predictions for playoffs and the team that wins promotion to core status will be.
Cup: South Africa
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.