SAN FRANCISCO, USA – The Rugby World Cup 7s will be upon us shortly. It was a very big deal for the USA to win the bid. There were about 13 other nations that had bid to host the RWC7s so the USA’s winning of it was a bit of a surprise, but considering how big the Las Vegas leg of the Sevens World Series has become it mightn’t be that much of a shock. Now comes the hard part of actually hosting it and the USA doing well. The USA Mens’ program had what I would consider a great year on the 2017/18 HSBC World Sevens Series and finished sixth. That was one below their 2016/17 season finish to qualify for a seeded position at the RWC7s, but they went through loads of injuries. With that said, let’s see how @Eagles7s team looks going in to the World Cup and try to at predict the winner of the tournament.
USA Head Coach Mike Friday‘s squad had a massive MASH unit this season. It hurt the team over the course of the Sevens Series, but it also made the team better: it forced fringe players to play more minutes and role players to become leaders.
The fact the USA managed to finish sixth, only once place down from the previous year and a spot they didn’t lose until the end of the series, meant a lot to the boys in the jersey.
Once again as we did during the Sevens Series, let’s take a look at the three main issues that stand out, going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): This is a bit of a trick question because although there are 4 changes, some of them are fake because it was guys coming in for first choice players. The key for the USA is every person considered a regular is healthy. The usual starting unit of Madison Hughes as captain, along with Ben Pinkelman, Folau Nuia and Perry Baker, are back as well as other key players including Carlin Isles. If you look at the roster, the biggest shock is that Malon Al-Jiboori was beaten for the final forward and traveling reserve forward spot by Brett Thompson and Pat Blair, respectively.
Home Sweet Home: The USA won the Las Vegas stop of this years sevens circuit. It gave hope to lots of fans that a home RWC7s win is possible. The boys will need to remain calm but they can definitely expect the same loud and vocal support they received in Las Vegas and hopefully we get the same effect.
The Moment: This is a lot of pressure to put on these guys but is seriously no better place than here and no better time than now. The Olympics (for all the hype) was a very disappointing finish. The program overcame that, but no one knows what medaling in the Olympics would have done for the growth of the game. Here is a second bite of the apple and I hope the team is focused and ready.
My View: With the tournament structure not having pools, it is best to skip the usual optimist v pessimist format for the World Cup. I expect the USA to make it to the quarterfinals. From there, I am not sure. To find out more, read below and look at my prediction for the whole tournament.
Mens RWC 7s Predictions:
The Rugby World Cup is unlike the Sevens Series because it doesn’t have pool play. The men aren’t even like the women, where they go straight into the Round of 16. The men have 24 teams & 16 will play a first round qualifier followed by the actual Round of 16. The losers of the first round matches will then fight to see who will finish 17-24, aka the Bowl winner. The winners move to the Round of 16 and the losers of the Round of 16 games go in the Challenge bracket and then fight out to win the Challenge Trophy, which is essentially ninth place and then battle to see who finishes 9-16. The winners of the Round of 16 are in the Champions bracket and they will of course battle it out from the winner of the World Cup and the places on down from 1-8. So I will look at the first round matches, then the Round of 16 matches, and predict the winners from there then project the winners going forward. You can find a profile of each of the 16 teams on the Rugby World Cup 7s site.
Here are the Previews:
Pre Round 16 fixture list – (Ranking) Country
(9) Kenya v (24) Tonga
(10) Canada v (23) Papua New Guinea
(11) France v (22) Jamaica
(12) Wales v (21) Zimbabwe
(13) Samoa v (20) Uganda
(14) Russia v (19) Hong Kong
(15) Japan v (18) Uruguay
(16) Ireland v (17) Chile
I see all the seeds from 9-12 winning their match-ups. Samoa can be on and off so if they come out flat, I think Uganda could take them but it is unlikely. Russia is also inconsistent and they are not that much better than Hong Kong so I see an upset in that match. I also see Uruguay upsetting Japan by being more physical at the breakdown and causing havoc. Ireland will definitely beat Chile based on how good they looked at the last two stops of the 2017/18 circuit.
Projected Round 16 fixture list – (Ranking) Country
(1) South Africa v (16) Ireland
(2) Fiji v (18) Uruguay
(3) New Zealand v (19) Hong Kong
(4) England v (13) Samoa
(5) USA v (12) Wales
(6) Australia v (11) France
(7) Argentina v (10) Canada
(8) Scotland v (9) Kenya
I see all the higher seeds from 1-4 winning their games without breaking a sweat. The USA has been known for slow starts and Wales are a handful but what should happen is that the USA starts slow but pulls away from Wales. Australia should definitely beat France but Argentina feel like they will get upset by the Canadians who are usually good for an upset( sometimes they get upset, sometimes they do the upsetting) a game. And really back Kenya to knock over Scotland, such was Kenya’s form during the series this season.
Projected Champions Bracket Quarter-final fixture list – (Ranking) Country
(1) South Africa v (9) Kenya
(2) Fiji v (10) Canada
(3) New Zealand v (6) Australia
(4) England v (5) USA
Kenya has fought South Africa close this season but has yet to get that over the hump so I don’t think they will pull it off this time. Fiji is just too good for Canada. New Zealand vs Australia will be a great match but I don’t see New Zealand slipping up here, since it has happened in RWC7s history and at the Olympics…but an upset of New Zealand is not out the question. USA’s match against England will be tight but this is where I am banking on the home field advantage to see the USA through.
Projected Champions Bracket Semifinal fixture list – (Ranking) Country
(1) South Africa v (5) USA
(2) Fiji v (3) New Zealand
This is where it will take a small bit of luck and individual brilliance by Perry Baker for the USA to get past South Africa. I can’t see that happening but I do see Fiji really looking to get past New Zealand and bringing their A game.
Rather then pick out the final and third place match, let me tease you guys a bit and leave you my prediction for the final standings the Men’s RWC 7s. You can put a question in the comments if you want to know why, but I pick Fiji to avenge the Sevens Series title the let slip through their hands and win it all.
Final standings will be:
Second: South Africa
Fourth: New Zealand
Bowl: Papua New Guinea
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.