CHULA VISTA, CA – The 2018/2019 HSBC Womens Sevens World Series (WSWS) season has finally arrived. I normally preview each tournament for you, the Rugby Wrap Up fans. However this year, I am gonna take it up a level and preview and review the 7s season.
The start of this season has not felt as long of a wait as previous seasons because we had the 7s Rugby World Cup (7sRWC) to fill in the void of the off-season. But thankfully the season is here, so without further ado, lets look at the issues that are going to be of importance throughout the season and not just on a tournament to tournament basis for the @USAWomens7s
New Head Coach: This is the fourth head coach in 5 seasons if memory serves correctly and even more if we go back to the 2009 7sRWC. In all that time there has been a constant thread of internal turmoil in the program. Whether it be the coach and the squad or the coach and management. This seems consist with what happenned here and the rise of Chris Brown to head coach of the women’s 7s program. Before I get in trouble with our legal team, I want to say that the following is purely my theory. Chris Brown has been with Mike Friday since 2012 when Friday was coaching Kenya and Brown was the Strength and Conditioning coach. I didn’t research if their relationship goes back further but it is kind of irrelevant, if it did. Friday, left Kenya and became the USA coach in 2014 and Brown came over with him. Brown and Friday have a great bond and Friday has mentored Brown from being a S & C coach into being the top assistant coach of the Men’s 7s program as of the 2017/2018 season. The thing is Brown has now maxed out his time with the men’s team, if he had visions of being a head coach himself. He needed to go and be a head coach with a tier 2 national team like a Uruguay, Ireland, Hong Kong or another of the sides that get invites to World 7s teams as the 16th and final side. The other option was for him to be the head coach of a tier 1 women’s program. Now if you look at the USA women’s program they had a decent World Cup, making the semi-finals, and finished 5th in the WSWS, but there was room for improvement in tactics and consistency. It could be argued a fresh voice was needed but it could also be argued that the head coach needed more time as Walker had only had the team slightly over a year and a half. However, Brown is highly rated by Friday and probably others in the program, so a calculation was made to make some sort of insane lowball offer to Richie Walker, leaving him to resign, similar to what happen to Matt “Polar Bear” Hawkins. This thus cleared the way for Brown to become head coach. My theory works that the long term play is for Brown to coach the Men’s 7s program as Friday moves up to General Manager of National Teams and High-Performance to replace the departing Alex Magleby. But Brown has to succeed with the women to get that promotion to the Men. Yes, yes, I know if this was a court of law, it would objected and charges of conjecture would ring out but it is not, so you have my theory to chew on.
Roster Make-up: The roster make-up of the team has been a bit of a problem. Under Ric Suggit it was more focused on crossover athletes and finding the player with the x-factor. Under Jules McCoy (who stayed long enough to get a bagel and a coffee with the program) and Walker, experienced rugby players got more of an opportunity. It could be argued that the balance was not right at times as finishers or physical power players weren’t able to complement there rest of the squad. There is also questions over having too many veterans and not enough young players to add more energy and push the veterans. This is something Brown will have to figure out and get it right in order to be successful.
Consistency: The team has also had a issue with consistency regardless of coach. Part of that might be the roster make-up and injuries but to go from runner’s-up in one tournament to fourth from bottom in the next tournament and then 3rd form bottom before bouncing back to be a semifinal side has more up and downs than a rollercoaster. If the USA really wishes to move up to 3rd in the standings, it will need to make the semi-finals in each leg for the season and likely win a leg or two.
The Attack: The USA attack can be described as way too narrow. They seemed have success when someone runs a line close to the ruck and breaks the line but then never really manage to spin it wide and use the space. It should be out wide in two passes and we don’t see enough of that. Being narrow in attack is a crime in 7s, or at least it should be. This is one of the first things Coach Brown will have to fix to have any chance of improved results.
That is it for now. Come back a bit later for my tournament preview.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.