NEW YORK, NY- The fifth leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby Org Women’s Sevens World Series begins this weekend in London, England. The Marriott London 7s will be the penultimate leg of this season’s series. It is also one of two legs that shares the stage with the Men’s series, the other was Dubai. This doesn’t add pressure to the Women but makes the tournament much larger and tinkers with the match schedule.
Last month in Langford at the Canada Women’s 7s, the Women’s Eagles won the plate. It was a big victory as the USA had to defeat Canada, whom they lost to in pool play. The win moved them to fifth place in the standings, a mere 4 points from fourth place. Claiming fourth place is of importance because the top 4 teams at the end of this year’s series will have automatically qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. This year’s series leader New Zealand, have already wrapped up the title. It is the fight for second through fourth that are of the most interest. Canada sit in second on 58 points, trailed by Australia on 56. The fourth and final spot currently belongs to France on 52 points. With two legs left, the French believe they can over this deficit to finish second. The problem for them is the USA is only 4 points behind and tied with England for fifth. Looking at the bigger picture, Russia is seventh and only 12 points out of second place. It will be a wild and crazy finish to this season, so stay tuned.
Looking at the success of the USA over the last two tournaments, they have found a groove of sorts. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s do what we have done for all tournament legs and look at the Top 3 Issues facing the side as they play host to the world.
Squad Changes (-/+): Two. We thought this was going to be three, as former Olympic bobsledder Emily Azevado, who reportedly has the fastest 40 yard time of squad members, had to withdraw due to an inability to travel. Unfortunately, if you are not part of the Olympic training camp group, then you are amateur and have to work your life around your rugby aspirations. This reopened the door for Kate Zachary to come back into the fold. Hannah Lopez is also back with Melissa Fowler losing out. Joining Fowler on the outside looking in will Joanne Fa’avesi, who is replaced by Rebekah Siebach. She is making her first appearance since the China 7s in the 2013-2014 season and is the only current Eagle to have been with the team since before the creation of the Women’s Sevens World Series in 2012-2013.
Self-Confidence: They continued the momentum from Atlanta into Langford. They are now within spitting distance of fourth. Do they have enough confidence in each other and the system to get them to their goal? Do they believe their good enough and deserve it? They can answer that when they take the pitch.
Pressure: Now that they are so close to making Olympic qualification, everything is magnified. A lapse in play may not only cost them the game but the Olympics. They are chasing 2-4 while looking over their should at 6 and 7. Can they withstand the pressure and deliver?
What does this mean going in to the tournament?
Optimist View: They have the ability and talent to finish second but will more than likely win the third place game.
Cynic View: This team’s mentally could be somewhat fragile. It lacks confidence and garners it as more positives are achieved. It is likely that the pressure will get to this side and they finish sixth.
My View: I feel very confident in this side and judging from the field and their previous exploits, at worst this side will be in the Plate final. I have a sneaky suspicion that this team will split the two viewpoints and come in fourth – but can’t guarantee if it will be enough to overtake France.
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Canada Women’s Sevens
v China – Friday, May 15 – 8:06 a.m. ET
v Fiji – Friday, May 15 – 10:50 a.m. ET
v Australia – Friday, May 15 – 1:34 p.m. ET
London 7s: This leg is the homestretch. The final leg is next weekend and no one wants to leave it till the last minute to get a much-needed victory. We all know that New Zealand is going to win but watching the race to be the team that has the honor of losing to them in the final will be completely engrossing.
Without a doubt, a very straight forward pool to call. New Zealand wins this group and probably doesn’t even break a sweat doing it. France should be too much for Spain but the Spaniards may have a trick up their sleeve. As expected, the women from Brazil are in a tough group and you really can’t see anything bit them being beaten up on.
Speaking of being used as cannon fodder, that will be the likely experience for South Africa as they bring up the rear in this group. Finishing first, second and third in this group will be extremely tough to call. The easiest – and most likely worst – way to make this call is to use the current ranking system as the divider. This means Canada finishes first followed, by England then Russia.
This is the closest thing we have to a group of death. It is likely that the USA and Australia will finish first and second. In which order? Only The Shadow knows… Fiji will try and rock the boat but this boat will not rock. China will be dead last, guaranteed.
With all that factored in, here are our predictions for playoffs and title winners:
Cup: New Zealand
All in all it still seems possible, though unlikely, that the USA team will finish in the final four and qualify for the Olympics.
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