SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Our World Rugby HSBC 7s coverage continues, as we touch down in The Land of Oz. This is the 4th stop on in the 12-stop tournament. Like last time, we will look at the Eagle 7s program and as we did all last season, try our luck at predicting the tournament standings – including the winner.
The USA’s showing in Wellington was poor and reminded many of the bad old days of USA 7s. The days when the USA was fit enough but the basic skills let them down. No one was more disappointed by the Wellington performance than USA 7s Head Coach Mike Friday and his staff. Friday said after the final match against Fiji, “When we have our opportunities we need to take them, because that’s exactly what Fiji did against us.” However, that could have been used for every match the USA has played… even the wins. One positive is that they still have their highest standing after three rounds in the history of the 7s.
Let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There are 1.5 changes to the USA squad from Wellington. Brent Thompson and Kevin Swiryn are both out with knee injures. Thompson suffered his injury in one of the training sessions leading up to Wellington, so he was replaced by and Ben Pinkelman, who was the traveling reserve for these two legs. Pinkelman played in all 5 games in NZ, his debut tournament. Swiryn will be replaced by Martin Iosefo, who is returning from injury himself.
Back to basics: The amount of simple mistakes the USA made against England in pool play, Fiji in the Cup quarters and Australia in the Plate semi-final, were alarming and unacceptable. If the Eagles hope to be a top-four contender or have any aspirations of winning a medal in Rio, then they need to make passes to hand, not get isolated, support better, avoid stupid penalties and make their tackles. There is no way around how important the fundamentals are.
Trust: Following such a poor performance and making injury-forced changes, trust becomes an issue. Players that are unfamiliar with each need to remember that they all are still familiar with the system… so trust the system, trust the calls, trust your support and trust that your teammate will be where he is supposed to be. It is only through trust of each other and Friday’s system that will make for a solid tournament
Optimist’s View: They get it together return to their winning ways, but fall short and claim fourth.
Cynic’s View: The wheels fall of a bit on Day 1 and it takes until Day 2 for things to go right and they can only walk away with the Bowl.
My View: The side will bounce back in a big way and that they will finish fourth.
It was an interesting Round 3. Fiji stumbled a bit and All Blacks 7s were able to win at home, somewhat controversially, against South Africa… England kept pace with the other powerhouses finishing in the top four. This means that this tournament is completely up for grabs.
Here are our pool previews:
New Zealand should win this group but with Australia having the fans loudly behind them, they may cause an upset. Canada is getting better but this is a brutal group so there is no way they finish higher than third. The 6 Nations B kicks off this weekend, meaning Portugal will have lost some key players to 15s so last place seems about right.
South Africa winning this group is a certainty… Scotland will try and push Kenya hard for second place but the Kenyans seem to have found their grove and are pushing to become a legit mid-table power. This leaves the lowly Russians to unfortunately bring up the rear.
Fiji will win this group and barely break a sweat doing it… With Australia having such a strong Samoan population, we are predicting an upset and that the Samoan fans will help Samoa achieve a win and claim second in the group… Argentina is good enough to take second but will take third… France will come out last in this group. It won’t be due to a dip in form but more to do with the fact that this is the group of death and anything can happen.
This is another relatively straightforward group to call. England continues to defeat the USA and the USA has to settle for second. Since the Welsh are rebuilding their program, they won’t be much of a threat and despite all their hard work and effort, Japan shouldn’t trouble anyone in this group.
Final standings will be:
Third: New Zealand
That is it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Ronan Nelson, Kyle Phillips and Declan Yeats, respectively
And remember to stay low and keep pumping those legs!