HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND – The 2018/2019 HSBC Men’s Sevens Series rolls into the new year with the first tournament of 2019. In a slight revamp, the new year begins in New Zealand instead of Australia. This gives New Zealand a bit more of a chance to shine and sets the stage for some fireworks to start the new year. Let’s take a look at the @Eagles7s team and take a stab at predicting the tournament.
The USA currently sit first in the world. Has the time finally come for the USA to get the respect as top rugby nation? No one is really sure, If the USA can hold on to first place after these next two legs, then maybe it might be time to start having that conversation. This fan is cautiously optimistic as there are eight legs left to go, including this one. With that said, lets take a look at the three main issues that stand out into this tournament.
1) Team changes (+/-): There are 2 changes to the USA squad from Cape Town. Matai Leuta is not in the squad in a shock and was replaced by Pat Blair and Anthony Welmers has been added as the 13th man to the squad.
2) Win their group: I would say go undefeated on day one but that is nowhere as important as just getting the job done and winning the group. It could be argued that since they only lost in the final game of the last two tournaments they need to keep doing that. I think to demand they consistently do that is ridiculous.
3) Must make semi-final: If there is a must for this team, it is makin the semi-finals and if they don’t make the final they should at least take 3rd so as to have a shot at staying #1 or within touching distance of #1.
Optimist’s View: They accomplish the third goal and finish third after playing well but losing in a tight semi-final match.
Pessimist’s View: They stumble into the playoffs and salvage the second day by finishing 5th.
My View: I see the USA making the semi-finals but losing the semi-finals and the 3rd place match to finish 4th.
With two legs to judge from it is becoming clear that USA is now entering the top tier but we have yet to decide who will be making room for them Lets look at the pools and see who will make it through and if that helps clear up the picture.
Here are the Pool Preview
Fiji should win this group. They will face a stern challenge from both Australia and Argentina but they should still be able to top the group. The real battle will be for second place. On rankings, it should be Australia that take second but the rankings are never a guarantee so don’t be surprised, if Argentina finish second. Wales will put up a good fight but they don’t have the talent to match the other teams in the group.
USA will battle England for the winner of this group. Both teams should go through but they will face stern challenges from Samoa and Tonga. With New Zealand being the closest the closest the two Pacific island nations will get to hosting a match and the massive number of Samoan and Tongan immigrants in New Zealand, the two teams will get a huge amount of support from the fans in the stands. This will mean that the players will be fired up to play and so both the USA and England are gonna be in for some scrapy affairs. Samoa is miles better than Tonga in 7s so it should be no surprise that Samoa will finish third.
This is a competitive pool probably the hardest to predict. I can be sure that South Africa will win the pool. The other three teams in the pool have all had great runs at one tournament or another last season. I have no idea whether this will be the tournament that France shows up big but I feel they are overdue for their yearly big time performance so I have them second with Scotland third and Kenya last. However, anything can happen so don’t hold me to my picks in this pool.
It was easy to pick that the winner of the group will be New Zealand. Canada I think will upset Spain and take second. I am making this bet on nothing but a hunch. Spain will finish third and Japan will come in last.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand
Challenge Trophy: Samoa
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.