DUBAI, UAE – The 2017-18 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series kicked off Thursday morning at 3AM New York time (noon in Dubai – we think), which is home to RWU headquarters. The first round will be in Dubai and it will be noon there. The Dubai 7s is one of three 7s stops that includes both the men’s and women’s circuit which we hope will increase to both series sharing stops because it makes for a bigger party and greater turn out. As we did in years past, we’ll look at the Eagle 7s and then blindly attempt to predict each tournament. Further, we will try to provide equal coverage for the Women and Men. Ronan Nelson has a Preview of the USA Womens Eagles Sevens season and Luke Bienstock has the Men covered. With that, here’s my Dubai 7s Women’s Preview & Predictions.
We’ll be looking at the three main issues/questions that need to be dealt with going into each tournament, specifically those that stand out going in for the @USAWomens7s program and its head coach Richie Walker.
World Cup Hangover? Half of the players making this squad will be returning to sevens after helping the USA Women’s Eagles to a first Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-final for 19 years back in August. What does this mean for the team? They players might play with more resolve and confidence or they could be burned out? Let’s see how they come out in Dubai.
Fresh Blood: Two players, Tia Blythe and Saskia Morgan, will be making their sevens series debut in Dubai. How they perform under pressure in the spotlight of the sevens will go a long way toward the overall team performance. Training ground heroes don’t always perform the same come prime-time but I doubt that will be the case here.
2016-2017 Momentum: After a poor start to last season, the USA got hot and finished the series 6th in the standings. But what can they do make the top 4? They were beaten for 4th by Fiji and 5th by Russia. These are teams the Eagles should be able to leap over and only play second fiddle to New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Can they take the momentum from their performance at the end of the season and use it to power them to a hot start? I hope so.
Optimist’s View: The team hits the ground running before they fall to back-to-back match-ups against the top 3 sides and finishes 4.
Cynic’s View: They make the quarterfinals but don’t do well to proceed and rebound to make the plate final before losing and finishing 6th.
My View: The USA has a likelihood of going 2-1, then losing the first match on day two and finishing with a 2-1 record on the second day to finish 5th. (They were 1-1 and the time this published, losing a heart-breaker to France, before squeaking by South Africa).
This is the first tournament of the tour and with no prior form to pick from, we must base it on last year’s performance. However, each nation’s traditional abilities and pedigree will also be factored into things.
Here are my Pool Previews:
New Zealand will top the group with ease. I am not being a homer by saying I believe the USA will give the Kiwis a run for their money. The Eagles will take second place and coming in third will be France. South Africa will be outclassed in this group and finish fourth.
Australia will top this group and lay down a marker for all the other sides. Russia continue to go from strength and they seem to has grown a lot and should take second. England have made some budget cuts to their program and they are rebuilding so they are not as dangerous as they use to be so they will likely third. Japan have made strides but they will struggle to get a win in this pool.
Canada will win this pool going away. It is impossible to tell who will finish second between Spain and Fiji. Common sense says pick Fiji so I will buck it and pick Spain. I would love to see more from Ireland as they have gotten better but I just this this pool will be too tough for them.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand