CLERMONT-FERRAND, FRANCE – The HSBC Women’s Sevens Series heads into its final leg. Unfortunately, the Women only have five legs compared to the Men’s ten, but lets not forget that World Rugby originally only gave them four; public outcry helped nudge the WRO into adding a fifth. This stop takes place in beautiful Clermont-Ferrand, which is known for the surrounding dormant volcanoes and major industrial area and a city square that features a statue made by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, architect of the Statue of Liberty…. Speaking of America, the USA Womens’ team will have to save its sightseeing tour for later because they will have to focus on bouncing back from an underwhelming performance in Canada to build much-needed momentum, as they head into the Rio Olympics. Let’s see how @USAWomens7s team looks going in to this leg and take a stab at predicting the tournament.
As awesome a start as Atlanta was for new USA Head Coach Richie Walker, Langford was a horrible encore. He now needs his charges to bounce back from that and prepare for Rio. Once again, we take a look at the three main issues that stand out, going into this tournament for the women’s program:
Team changes (+/-): There are 5.75 changes to the USA squad from Langford. Same amount as from Atlanta to Langford but thankfully much more time has passed between legs. The .75 is the change in captaincy which isn’t as drastic as it sounds. The stand-in captain in Langford, Bui Baravilala, hands over the armband to team captain Jill Potter, who returns from injury to replace Megan Bonny on the roster. Kathryn Johnson and Kristen Thomas replace Emily Azevedo and Nicole Heavirland, due to their improved performance in training and warm-up tournaments. The final two players are series debutante, Lilly Durbin and teenage sensation Kelly Griffin, who returns from injury. They come in at the expense of Christy Ringgenberg and Joanne Fa’avesi. One caveat that might make all this turnover acceptable is that all of the squad – except for Griffin and Durbin – played last week in the London Invitational and won the cup, going undefeated, 6-0.
Finish Strong: It has not been an easy season for the Eagles. The change in coaches, the inconsistent performances and poor play have hurt them. Again, this is the final major tournament going into the Olympics; I cannot emphasize how important it is that they have a quality performance.
Confidence: This team has not been playing like a team with confidence… they have been playing like a confident team. Odd saying, yes, but the difference is a confident player/team believes in itself as long as things are going good. When things get rocky they start to wobble, compare the awesome performance in front of home crowds in Atlanta and then the poor one up north. Contrast this with the confidence of an Australia side that is likely going to win the series. They believe someway, somehow they will win each match they play. The proof is in the pudding – or results – for the USA and Australia.
Optimist’s View: The team plays with confidence, upsets some sides and walks away with the a fourth place finish.
Pessimist’s View: After a good first day, a poor first half on the second day leads to a downward spiral and they finish eighth.
My View: They will likely finish fifth and win the Plate. They will qualify for the cup playoffs, then slump for a game before getting it together and getting fifth.
Clermont-Ferrand 7s Predictions:
Barring a major collapse in this tournament, the series winner for this year will be Australia. They won the first three legs but they will be pushed hard here by Round-4 winner England, the always-dangerous Canadians and New Zealand, their long-time rivals. With the Rio Olympics around the corner, every team will be looking to do more than just beat Australia. Teams want to win the cup, end the season on a high and positively focus on medals.
Here are the Pool Previews:
England should have no problem topping this group. They may face a challenge from the USA if the USA play to their potential. Oddly enough finishing second for the USA is dependent on fighting off Spain, who are dangerous when in-form. That leaves Brazil, unfortunately, to come last.
New Zealand are the bookies favorite to win this group and that is hard to argue. However, they may have to win it on point differential because Canada is more than good enough to draw with them. Heck, Canada may even take them if the wily Canucks are firing on all cylinders… Russia is a good team but they are in a tough group so they will be third, which means Japan will earn the unfortunate distinction of being last.
There is no way Australia doesn’t sweep pool play, they are just better than everyone else… France is the second-highest ranked team in the pool and they will be playing in front of their fans. Expect them to come second in this pool and be a very tough team to beat in the knockout round… Fiji will take third, as they have progressed in their play this season… Ireland will bring up the rear, upsetting the likes of Declan Yeats.
Final standings will be:
Cup: New Zealand
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, @MeetTheMatts, Junoir Blaber, Ronan Nelson, Crawford Miller, Luke Bienstock, James Harrington and Declan Yeats.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.