SYDENY, AUS – Our HSBC 7s World Series coverage continues, as we touch down in The Land of Oz. This is the 3rd leg in the 10-nation tournament. As per usual RWU, we will analyze the @Eagle7s team for this tournament and then make a valiant attempt picking which nation will win the tournament.
Consistency has been a barrier for the USA 7s program – There have been some amazing ups, such as winning the London 7s a few years back, but then you get performances like the embarrassment that was Dubai to start this series. It is a tough task as the budget for USA Rugby, the player development and talent identification system is not as resourced the same as the teams that occupy that top 4(Fiji, NZ, England, SA). However, the USA has finished 5th in the rankings despite those challenges and if they showed more consistency like making the cup quarterfinals ever leg, they would be able to crack the top 4. They can take a step in that direction and never look back beginning in Australia this weekend.
With that, let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There are 2 changes to the USA squad from Cape Town. The biggest change is the return of Perry Baker from a concussion that knocked him out of Dubai after 5 minutes and all of Cape Town is huge. Baker is the reigning World Rugby 7s Player of the Year and his return to fitness will instantly make the USA more dangerous. Speaking of Mr. Baker, here he is on the RWU weekly show. On the other side of the spectrum Chris Mattina will be making his series debut while missing out these rounds are Malon Al Jiboori and Naima Fuala’au.
Chuckle Brothers Return: We were excited about this in Dubai but as mentioned due to Baker’s injury it never came to fruition. Now we get another go at it. The combination of Carlin Isles and Perry Baker make the USA installing a more dangerous side. Isles is still coming back from his injury plagued 2016/2017 season but as he hits his stride and there is a fully fit Baker to partner with makes the USA attack lethal. The USA will have the most dangerous 1-2 speedster combo in the series.
Win that first game: Sounds simple but the USA is in a tough group and by simply winning that first game they take the pressure off of themselves a little bit. The win would mean the next two matches aren’t must win against tough opposition.
Optimist’s View: They continue with their fine form and go undefeated on day one and win the cup quarterfinal, then lose the next two to finish 4th.
Cynic’s View: They make the cup quarterfinal then lose that match, win the 5th place semi final before losing the 5th place final and finishing 6th.
My view: I want to believe the optimist but kind of agree with the cynic so we will split the difference and say they win the 5th place match.
The task of predicting tournaments is getting so much tougher. Not only can any team lose any given match but the gap between the top sides and the second and third tier is smaller because for one tournament each series, a Kenya or Samoa could fire on all cylinders and shock everyone. This means every tournament is can end up being up for grabs. So now that I have gotten my excuse for being wrong in, let me be bold and predict this leg.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji and New Zealand will fight it out to win this group. The danger is that one of the sides looks too far forward to facing the other and forgets Samoa. Samoa has all the talent and ability to up end this pool and take one of the top two spots. However, for now we will pick them to finish third in the group going away. Unfortunately for Russia they will likely be the pool whipping boy.
This is one of the toughest pools I have ever had to predict. That is because there is not much of gap between the sides and each side has a history of getting hot at one tournament each year. I believe Argentina will keep their form but Kenya will find a rich vein of form to finish second in the group. France and Wales will struggle as they finish third and fourth respectively.
Papua New Guinea
South Africa and England are the heavy favorites to win this group. This is the easiest group to call because the gap between the top two and bottom two is so huge. Spain will take third and PNG will bring up the rear.
Much like Pool B, this is a tough pool to predict because each side finished in the top 4 of one tournament last season. So the break down of who finishes where and why is all based on gut feelings. Australia will finish first as they are the host and will enjoy the hometown boost. USA will finish second because they are getting back into form and getting Baker back will make a difference. I literally flipped a coin and decided Canada will finish third and Scotland on the basis that both sides didn’t get hot until later in the series last season so they will hit their stride in another tournament or two.
Final standings will be:
Cup: South Africa
Third: New Zealand
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: @RugbyWrapUp, @Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And remember to stay low and keep pumping those legs!