VANCOUVER, CANADA – Our World Rugby HSBC 7s coverage continues, as we touch down in Van City aka Vancouver. This is the 6th stop on in the 10 city tour series. Like last time, we will look at the Eagle 7s program and try our luck at predicting the tournament standings – including the winner.
The USA’s showing in Vegas was very inspiring. The side battled through injuries to key players and managed to finish fourth. They Eagles lost playmaker Maka Unufe and developing talent Will Holder. The side still struggled with the top sides but they managed to defeat the sides they needed to, in order to emerge as a top tier side. USA 7s Head Coach Mike Friday has often said “The challenge is to build a depth and have a quality 18 to 24 not just 12 man squad. Because we want to create competition and put pressure on guys to constantly improve. “ This idea for Friday will finally be put to test this weekend by a large number of changes.
Let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There are 4 changes to the USA squad from Las Vegas. Pat Blair, Seth Halliman, Ben Leatigaga, and Thretton Palamo have all been called into the squad as Zach Test, Holder and Unufe nurse injuries. With the four each part of the USA Falcons team that won the invitational tournament during the USA Sevens, there dropoff may not hurt as much as expected. Test, Holder and Unufe have been lost due to injury but the fourth member missing from the list is the incomparable Carlin Isles. Due to a previous agreement, Isles is attending a 60 meter dash contest to allow him to also be considered for the Team USA 100 meter dash Olympic team.
Stepping Up: There are some key players beings replaced. Test was a Series Dream Team player last year and the USA’s all time try scoring leader. Isles in half the time on the tour as Test is second on the USA all time try scoring list. Unufe has evolved as a key playmaker and Holder is a versatile player that has become a workhorse. Palamo and Blair have tour experience but will need to step up in a big way. Halliman and Leatigaga are tour debutantes and the hope is they won’t get stage fright on the big stage.
Finishing Strong: The USA has struggled to finish games off. They have had fast starts but then they can’t find a way to finish off team like Kenya in Sydney or falling off against South Africa in Vegas. It may be fitness but it feels more like mental toughness and killer instinct. It is in between the ears and needs to be fixed there.
Optimist’s View: With some of the momentum from Vegas and self belief, the USA manage to win the Plate.
Cynic’s View: The Eagles are stuck in the group of death and with the changes they will like end up in the bowl playoffs and win that.
My View: I want to believe the optimist but I got a feeling they end up winning the bowl. I believe the team has too much on its plate
It is shaping up to be an interesting round. Fiji, have taken the lead but are still being pursued by South Africa and New Zealand. There are still sides like Australia, England and the USA that are not out of it and are putting pressure on top 3 in every tournament. This continues to be the most open series ever.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji will top this group and are unlikely to break a sweat. Kenya continues to improve and will try and put pressure on the Fijians but they will finish second in this group. The pick for third will be Portugal as they young talent improves they get better each round. We expect Samoa to have poor first day and finish fourth before they move on to a better day 2.
Australia, who will feature Quade Cooper will runaway with this group. No one is really a threat to them. Canada as the hosts have been placed in a very friendly group. This will allow them to come second in the group. Russia will surprise some people and finish third in group as Wales will once again have a slow start and finish fourth.
South Africa will win this group though they will face stern competition from Argentina. A strong and improving Scotland are going to give both the top two sides a quality workout. Despite their impressive displays in 15s recently the Brazilian 7s side will be up against it and will unfortunately bring up the rear.
This is the group of death. New Zealand will go blow for with England for the top seed in this group. The patriot in me wants to believe in the USA but it just doesn’t seem likely when you look at the USA squad and the team in this group. They will finish third and will likely only defeat the French. The French will come in 4th unfortunately.
Final standings will be:
Second: South Africa
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!