VANCOUVER, CAN – Welcome to Van City! Canada’s second largest city and one of the shining jewels of North America, is the 6th stop of the HSBC 7s World Series. Usually, when World Rugby talks about a stop on the circuit getting close to being a sellout, the cynic in me comes out. But apparently, there is reason to believe in this tournament.
In its first year in 2016, the total attendance was 60,418 with the highest day drawing 30,209. The following year, 2017, was even better, with a total attendance of 76,116 and a one-day high of 38,058. B.C. Place, the venue for this weekend’s stop, holds 55,000 at max capacity. And those previous high attendance numbers are likely to be eclipsed this year. Considering Rugby Canada and Canada Sevens LLP are in the midst of bidding with World Rugby to keep Vancouver in the series for the next 4 years, turnout is of huge importance.
Personally, I don’t see why this shouldn’t remain a leg of the Series.
Vancouver comes on the heels of Las Vegas, which, as many of you may know was a great leg for the USA Eagles. They they won the whole thing. However, there is no time to celebrate the happenings of last week. That champagne must stay on ice and the party hats put in the back pockets as this is a new dawn. With that let’s analyze @Eagle7s for this stop and get to my bold/precarious predictions on who will top pool play and ultimately win the tournament.
“Better never stops” is a mantra from “friend of the show” John Kirwan when he was coaching. It means there is always room to improve and alway aspects of your game you can work to improve. Though he has never said it, I can assure USA Rugby 7s Head Coach Mike Friday is a believer in it. I don’t think he will have the USA resting on its laurels, and if I was a betting man I’d say he probably went harder this week to remind them that work is not done yet. The USA needs to consistently finish in the top 4 of each tournament for the remainder of the series to have any hopes of finishing in the top 4 of the overall standings.
3 Key Issues:
Team changes (+/-): The Eagles injury list grows as they will be without forwards Joe Schroeder and Maka Unufe. Although they managed to win the Vegas final without him, Unufe was a key part of how the Eagles got there. Unufe was the first sub off the benc when captain Madison Hughes got injured. Unufe stepped up to become a starter.
In their place, we will see the return of Falcons (Eagles 2nd side) player Nicklas Boyer, who was flown out to NZ when Hughes and Stephen Tomasin were originally injured. Joining Boyer will be Brett Thompson, a man who needs no introduction on the USA Rugby 7s scene having been a stud player before journeying into 15s. He is now back in 7s with the goal of making the Rugby World Cup 7s squad.
Hot Start: The second leg of a regional trip is always tougher than the first leg of a back to back circuit stops. With that said and looking at the pool the USA is in it is imperative they put away Uruguay in their first match and give themselves breathing room (and room for error). This is especially true since Canada is in their pool and will be playing inspired in front of their home fans.
Was it a fluke?: Fans and detractors (looking at you Tom Clayman!) alike are asking if last weekend signified the program turning the corner or whether was it another false dawn. Have the USA gone from top second tier side to elite? The standings don’t show it yet so it is up to the team to continue to make progress.
Optimist’s View: The Optimist was right last week when he predicted them winning it all. This week the optimist feels the USA can play well enough to make the final but the fatigue and injury will catch up. Optimist says the USA will finish 4th.
Cynic’s View: The cynic wants to point out that they called it correctly, two tournaments ago. This time he feels like the USA are in a tougher group, injury and sees them not making the Cup playoffs, but winning the Challenge Trophy.
My View: I feel like going with the usual down the middle and seeing the USA finish 6th. They will make the cup playoffs, lose their first playoff game then bounce back to make the Plate final which they lose.
I keep speaking about how hard it is to predict tournaments these days. Here is a fun fact so far for the 2017-2018 serie: a different team has won every leg so far this season. A team like South Africa is dealing with injuries and Super Rugby call backs, but they are not alone as staying healthy is becoming an issue for everyone. It is boiling down to individual and team effort as players try to will themselves to victories and as the gaps between each spot in the standings tightens. Despite all of that, I am not afraid of the fool’s errand that is predicting the pools, so here we go:
Here are my pool previews:
The USA will top this group, but only just. It won’t be easy and I can see them get in some tight matches with Canada and Australia, but I am backing them to win one of the two needed to top the group. Canada have been frustrating, but they made the Challenge Trophy final in Las Vegas and seem to be playing better. Put them in front of their fans and I can’t help but see them doing enough to make the Cup playoffs. Australia have been improving, but I see Canada pulling off an upset and the USA sneaking a win in a tight match against them. Australia come in third. Uruguay are over-matched in this group so they will finish fourth.
England are good enough to top this pool but will face a stern battle for it from Argentina. Argentina have grown each round and are showing that they are legitimate.As for the bottom two, it is tricky. Wales have under-preformed a bit and I am really disappointed in Samoa’s performance to date. As a result, I am picking Wales to finish third and Samoa last.
This pool gets a little trickier. Fiji should win this group easily but they were shocked in Las Vegas by Kenya, so it could happen again. Kenya have been looking impressive the last few tournaments and are gonna be a lock to finish 2nd in this pool and make the playoffs. France won the Challenge Trophy is Las Vegas, but that is essentially their ceiling right now and I see no way they can come out of this group. Spain will fight but they don’t have the horses or class to cause any upsets in this pool.
This was the easiest pool to predict because New Zealand and South Africa are clearly the best sides in the pool. Scotland will put up a fight but they aren’t good enough to upset the top two, no matter how weakened SA are. Russia will once again look to be more competitive in day 2 as they will get rolled in day 1.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below. And remember to stay low and keep pumping those legs!
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