LONDON, ENGLAND – Last weekend Sevens rugby went home. We were in Scotland, the home of sevens. This weekend we are in England, the home of rugby. “Who says you can’t go home again?” Well much like how the real home of 7s is in Melrose, Scotland but the leg is held in Glasgow, the home of rugby is in Bath, England but the England leg is held in London. The London leg will be the final leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby Organization HSBC Sevens World Series. It will be a fantastic and frantic finish to this season’s series with a 3 horse race for the title and lots of other teams playing well and looking to finish strong.
The @Eagles7s had a great but not necessarily complete tournament in Glasgow. After a poor start to day one that saw them lose badly to Canada they were able to bounce back and defeat Japan and Argentina to qualify for the Cup division playoffs. they managed to overcome an injury to Zach Test and win a tight quarterfinal against Australia. After that they couldn’t overcome the eventual champions Fiji and stumbled in the 3rd place match against England. As we just mentioned Fiji continued sweep all before them as they defeated New Zealand in the final. The hosts of the London leg, England remain in the all important fourth spot. Fourth place is of great importance because the top 4 teams at the end of this year’s series will have automatically qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The battle for the title as champions of the 2014/2015 Sevens World series is a 3 horse race. In the drivers seat going into London are Fiji, followed by South Africa, who trail by 5 points. Defending Series champions New Zealand sit in third, 3 points behind South Africa. However before we look at the global stage, let’s look at the 3 main issues effecting the US side.
Team changes (+/-): One. The injury to Zach Test has forced USA Sevens head coach Mike Friday, to make a squad change. After line-ups were turned, it was thought Test was gonna be available but it seems he must have failed a late fitness test. In lieu of bringing in one of the non-traveling reserves, coach Friday has decided to look at one of the Americans playing in England. Despite how long he sat by the phone and wished for it to ring, 15s prop Eric Fry did not get the call. Coach Friday, initially thought about 15s fullback Chris Wyles, who began his career with the 7s team, but with Wyles’ full time employer, Saracens, in a dog fight for the Aviva Premiership playoffs, see here, Friday thought to bring in another back at Saracens. Friday has called in the former and possible current messiah of the USA 15s backline, Thretton Palamo. Palamo was with the 7s team last season as he worked his way back from spending a few years playing college football. He is familiar with 7s, an absolute stud and with him still working his way up from the B team at Saracens, some extra playtime will do him some good.
Fast Start: The USA had a poor start to the tournament in Glasgow. It is not easy when your toughest opponent is the first game. However, you have to have your head on straight because you create an uphill task. They have an easier schedule this tournament but it is still important that they get a win, first up. For those baseball fans, it is similar to how a first pitch strike changes the whole approach of a pitcher and a batter.
Closing Statments: The USA can’t win fourth. They look on a collision course with Canada in the NACRA qualifier. It makes you wish that there were another 3 legs to this series or that the move to the triumvirate of Alex Magleby (Director of Performance), Mike Friday and Chris Brown (Assistant Coach), had been made last season. Either way, this is the USA’s final chance to send a warning to Canada and anyone they may face in the Olympic that as dangerous as they are now, they can only get better.
What does this mean going in to the tournament?
Optimist’s view: The USA shocks some people and wins third place.
Cynic’s view: They actually look good enough that the worst they could do is lose the Plate final.
My view: The USA makes the Cup playoffs and leaves with the Plate.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Japan Sevens
v France – Saturday, May 16- 4:22 AM ET
v Portugal – Saturday, May 16 – 7:28 AM ET
v South Africa – Saturday, May 16 – 10:34 AM ET
London 7s: It is all about sending a message because the top four spots in the series are locked up barring a mega-collapse from England. It is about the glory of winning a tournament for almost all the other teams in the tournament. For the top three, if goes like this: NZ need to win the whole thing and hope Fiji get no further than the cup quarter-finals, SA need to win it and hope Fiji get no further than finishing fourth and lose the 3rd place game, while for Fiji, as long as they finish third or better, they will have won the whole series.
Here are our pool previews
This is a tough group. It should finish with Fiji on top without a doubt. Even if they slip-up they will at worst be second to Canada. Canada will likely be in second place. Argentina will battle Samoa for third and based on the form this season, Samoa will likely win third.
This will be the ANZAC pool. The winner will be New Zealand most likely followed by Australia. Don’t underestimate a possible Wales upset but most likely they will finish third with Japan, once again, being last.
England will dominate this group. They will be in front of their home fans and will want to put on a great show. Meanwhile Kenya will show some good form and upset Scotland for second. Scotland should finish second but we have a gut feeling that they will fall to Kenya. Brazil will be the last place team in this pool.
This is a straight draw for the USA. There are no easy games but all season they have been able to defeat the likes of France and Portugal and this is another pool where they should do so. It is what they need to do if you want to be considered elite. The USA will finish second in the pool to a South Africa side desperate for a good cup playoff draw and making the Cup final. France will likely beat out Portugal for fourth but then again, anything can happen.
With all that factored in, here are our predictions for playoffs and title winners:
Second: South Africa
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.