GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Welcome home, Sevens rugby. If you could imagine the Glasgow 7s talking in a Darth Vader voice, it would say “Seven rugby, I am your father.” If you want to be technical, the real home of 7s is in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders region, but who wants to do that. This is why, we view the removal of Scotland as leg on the World Rugby Organization HSBC Sevens World Series beginning next year as a travesty. However, we are not here to discuss that, we are here to discuss this weekend’s sold-out Glasgow 7s. This weekend will be the 8th and penultimate leg of the 2014-15 Sevens World Series. This season is as tight as the series has ever been and with so much to play for, the action will be intense this weekend.
The @Eagles7s had two tournaments in one, in Tokyo. After a poor day one that saw their streak of four straight Cup playoffs come to a halt, they bounced back to win some hardware. The suspension of USA Sevens’ Folau Niua for all of pool play seemed to really hurt the side. They loss to Kenya and South Africa in pool play, meaning they could only compete in the Bowl division playoffs where they swept all before them as they defeated Australia, in the Plate final. Meanwhile England won their first tournament of the series, leapfrogging Australia to claim fourth place. Claiming 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. This yea’s series leader is South Africa, they are trailed by Fiji, only 4 points behind them. Defending Series champions New Zealand sit in third, 5 points behind Fiji, followed by the aforementioned England. However before we look at the global stage, let’s look at the 3 main issues effecting the US side.
Team changes (+/-): One. Martin Iosefo returns to the squad after stepping away to focus on his studies at the University of Montana. He replaces veteran Nic Edwards for these final two legs.
One Pant Leg At A Time: An old saying when up against a team that by all standards is much better than you, is “They are not that special, they put their pants on one pant leg at a time, just like you.” The USA is now up to two wins against the top 5 teams in the standings (South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, and England) all series. The defeat of Australia for the Bowl final must lead to something. The previous victory over Fiji in a plate match didn’t, but this time must be different. Two tournaments to go and no better time than now.
Finishing Strong: The USA had a solid second day of the Tokyo tournament. They need that sense of urgency in all their games in the remaining tournaments. On the global level, Australia has faded in the last couple of tournaments, now the pressure is on and we need to see how the USA copes. They may not claim fourth place but doing all they can to claim fifth place and put pressure on fourth will bode well for their Rio hopes at the NACRA qualifiers.
What does this mean going in to the tournament?
Optimist’s view: The USA upsets a few people and finish 4th.
Cynic’s view: The actually lose some steam and finish sixth. Losing in Plate final
My view: The top four seems like a tough group to break but Australia look week so smart money is on a fifth place finish for the USA, meaning another Plate title.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Japan Sevens
v Canada – Saturday, May 9 – 5:30 AM ET
v Japan – Saturday, May 9 – 8:58 AM ET
v Argentina – Saturday, May 9 – 11:48 AM ET
You can follow the U.S. in Scotland on Twitter with @USARugby and watch the Series on Universal Sports.
Glasgow 7s: The race for first will force South Africa to stay sharp as Fiji and New Zealand pull out all the stops for the title. The race for fourth place will also be fun to watch.
Here are our pool previews
This is an incredibly tough group. Some would say the rugby gods are having fun. With both England and Australia fighting for fourth this should be interesting as they will likely finish first and second. England have the slight edge. France, who will cause trouble on a good day can be expected to create trouble while Russia will bring up the rear, while trying to kick up a fuss.
The rugby gods were not done meddling. This is the absolute group of death and the toughest pool we have seen all series. New Zealand will try to send a message to their South Africa counterparts and win the group. It will not be easy to win the group because Samoa will give them hell and Kenya can crash a party as well as anyone. We just feel that with Series lead almost falling out of their grasp, the Kiwis will do what they must to win. Followed by South Africa, Samoa and the Kenya.
Fiji by the luck of the draw will get an easy ride into the cup playoffs, as long as they stay focused. Scotland has looked stronger over the last couple of legs than Wales. We actually believe Portugal who have really looked good lately have a 50/50 chance of taking third from Wales.
This is a weird draw for the USA. They avoid all of the teams ahead of them in the standings. You would figure that they would be elated and they are with two other tier 2 teams that are very much at their level. Canada and Argentina have taken down the USA before and are very well capable of doing the same if taken lightly. However, Mike Friday’s USA team seam more built to last than previous regimes and they are in good form against the other two. For this reason we see them finishing first in the group. Considering recent form, Canada should top Argentina, but we are not necessarily 100 percent sold on the likelihood of that. Japan without a doubt will be last in this group.
With all that factored in, here are our predictions for playoffs and title winners:
Second: New Zealand
Third: South Africa
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.