Las Vegas, USA – The 2016-17 World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series has touched down in Las Vegas. The first round of pool games were played last night, so forgive me for not keeping you current. The #Vegas7s is the fifth of 12 legs on the Men’s circuit and it is taking on greater importance. That is because if any team has any hope of catching the series leading South African Blitzbokke now is the time to start making a run. We will also look at the @Eagle7s and try and predict how the tournament will play out. With that, here’s my Las Vegas 7s Men’s Predictions.
We will take a look at the three main issues that stand out going into this tournament for the Eagles and their head coach Mike Friday.
Player Changes (+/-): The USA made 4 changes. Pago Haini a late sub for Brett Thompson in Wellington and Sydney is out, so too is Arizona State University football tight end graduate and Super Rugby Brumbies project play back Chris Coyle. Joining them on the outside looking in is Conor Wallace-Sims, Don Pati and an injured Carlin Isles, who is lost to the team for the rest of the season. There will be no replacement to Coyle as the USA just returns to a 12 man squad. The others are replaced by players returning and looking to make a difference. Pat Blair is back, along with Ben Pinkelman, who had a great debut season, last season. Another player returning is potential difference maker Maka Unufe. Unufe will be joined by debutant Walt Elder.
Home Field Advantage: The USA has always played well when in Las Vegas. They have never won it all, though and that will be the key test this time out. With the event getting bigger each year, can they turn the energy of their fans into a tournament win is a big question.
Baker’s Dozen: This isn’t a repeat of the post last time. It is just highlighting that with Isles out, the remainder of the way, it is now left to Perry Baker to the team’s only home run hitter. Maybe head coach Friday will unearth another speedster to compliment Baker but in the interim, it will be down to Baker to be the finisher and strike runner that can win a game for the USA in the blink of an eye.
Prediction: With the tournament already underway and the first round of matches played it would be unfair to make views and predictions as if we didn’t know the USA had just won its first match. So we will skip the cynic’s and optimist views and just give a prediction. At home in front of their fans, we have a belief the USA will make the semifinals of the Cup before finishing fourth overall.
Las Vegas 7s:
The Blitzbokke of South Africa are sitting comfortable in the driver’s seat. However, they are now more vulnerable than ever. They have lost stars like Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith to Super Rugby. So they have lost some strike power and grunt in the forwards so they are slightly less dangerous. The squad is still deep and contains loads of talented players so they are not to be dismissed, besides a wounded animal is a dangerous animal.
Here are my Pool Previews:
South Africa will top this group. That is the only thing that can be predicated from pool A. France and Canada will battle it out for second and it will come down to point differential. Canada have taken huge leaps forward this season and they seem to be ready to be a consistent threat. We never know which Wales side will show up and it appears that it was not be the better version, we expect Wales to finish bottom.
England will top this group and look to be a real force USA have beaten the two teams that they are better than with solid performances but they will fall against England. This leaves Samoa to finish third with a very over-matched Chile finishing bottom.
New Zealand will be the pool winners. They may face a stern test from Argentina but they should survive. The Argies seem like favorites for second place but they could be tripped up by Kenya who can be very dangerous on their day. This leaves Russia to bring up the rear.
Fiji will win this group while barely breaking a sweat. Australia are set to claim second although Scotland may have a surprise in them. The final team in the pool, unfortunately will be Japan.
Final standings will be:
Second: 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.