WELLINGTON, NZ – Our World Rugby HSBC 7s coverage continues, as we touch down in The Land of the Long White Cloud. This is the 3nd stop on the 12-stop tournament. Like last round, we will look at Eagle 7s program and as always, I’ll try my luck at predicting the tournament standings – including the winner.
Having raised the bar two seasons ago, the USA has struggled to improve and had a poor Olympic showing. Fans and observers fully believe that @Eagles7s can do better than it has been doing, though. The team needs to show more composure and clearer thinking under pressure. As we prepare for the next stop on the tour, let’s look at the 3 key issues going into tournament:
Team Changes: There are 3.5 changes to the USA squad from Cape Town. Captain Madison Hughes is back after being on tour with the Eagles 15s during the first two rounds. The fastest man in rugby, Carlin Isles returns along with tour veteran Brett Thompson, who is finally healthy after being injured last season. The three are in for Alec Gletzer, Stephen Tomasin, and Anthony Welmers. The half change was for Kevon Williams who had withdraw due to injury after being officially named to the squad. Williams is replaced by Connor Wallace-Sims.
Captain America Returns: The Eagles are not a one-man show but the return of Madison Hughes is huge. You can quantify his importance by looking at what he brings on the pitch. He is the scrum-half and when he gets the ball in the open-field, he can make the key pass or step to score tries. On top of this, he is the primary kicker and is constantly communicating on defense. What we can’t quantify is the leadership he brings as the captain off the pitch. His return is an instant improvement to squad.
TGIFA: Thank God Its Friday, Again. With all due respect to Chris Brown, who was a capable deputy and will hopefully grow into being a good head coach, we are ecstatic that Mike Friday is back. He is the man who brought the program to the next level and his return to full-time action with the Eagles is huge. He was previously helping the 15s program but now is back and seems focused on helping the program became a consistent title contender.
Optimist’s View: They will play well, claim a big scalp and make it to the semi-final before being knocked out.
Cynic’s View: They make the Challenge Cup and lose it in final.
My View: The side will make the Challenge bracket and win it.
With two legs completed, defending champs Fiji looked to be good but they are behind South Africa and England. The three medal winning sides from the Olympics will look to dominate the proceedings in New Zealand… The host All Blacks 7s will look to win the tournament and get back into prominence.
Here are our pool previews:
Papua New Guinea
England will win this group. They will get a big fight from Argentina, but they will survive it and the Argies will finish second. Coming in third will be Kenya as they will push the top two sides but fall short. PNG will be the pool whipping boy.
South Africa should take this group but they could just as easily be upstaged by Fiji. From there, Australia a will face big for third from Japan..
New Zealand will win this group. They must if they have visions of returning to being a top-tier side. They will face a challenge from both the USA and France. It is anyone’s guess as to which Samoan will show up, Lord Tietjens or not.
This is a tough group to call. Despite there great improvement, Scotland hasn’t shown enough consistency to be first pick hands down. Wales is/are rapidly improving and Canada can always be a surprise. Even Russia is capable of an upset or two. So, I’m basing these picks based purely on coin tosses.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand
Third: South Africa
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, @Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.