DUBAI, UAE – The 2017-18 World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series is back to much fan aniticipation. Over the last 5 seasons, just when you think you have witnessed the greatest series ever, the following year is better. This season feels like it will be the best ever. As we did in years past, look at the Eagle 7s and then attempt to predict each tournament. Further, we will try to provide equal coverage for the Women and Men. Luke Bienstock has a Preview of the USA Eagles Sevens season and here’s my Dubai 7s Men’s Preview & Predictions.
Once again I’ll be looking at the three main issues/questions that need to be dealt with going into each tournament, specifically those that stand out going in for the @Eagles7s program and its head coach Mike Friday.
Welcome to the next tier? The USA is not in the tier 1 of sevens yet but the have left tier 2. They are in tier 1.5. The first tier is occupied by South Africa, England, Fiji and New Zealand. The USA is in the next group after that. These teams are often classified as tier 2 but that tier is divided. The USA and Australia are in that 1.5 tier while Canada, Scotland and Argentina are seeking to join it and not just be run of mill tier 2. So now that people expect them to make the quarterfinals of every leg and make the semi-finals of at least half the legs, what kind of pressure does that put on the eagles? We will start finding out this weekend.
Chuckle Brothers Re-united: The Chuckle Brothers are Carlin Isles and Perry Baker. Isles is considered the first breakthrough star sprinter/American football crossover speedster. He took the world by storm and went on to become the top try scorer in USA Sevens history. Baker quickly followed Isles and though he has not made as many headlines in the mainstream, in the rugby world he has become a star. Isles has had some injures and missed the most of last season with injury, in his absence Baker took his game to next level. Baker developed his all around game and displayed his full potential as he went on to win World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year. The USA missed Isles last season as Baker was forced to be the only speedster and play more minutes. With a fit and in-form Isles back and Baker playing close to as well as he did last season, the USA will have the most dangerous 1-2 speedster combo in the series.
The Nucleus: The teams seems pretty settled with only 2 to 3 spots up for grabs every training camp. This means that though they will be fresh blood added Joe Schroeder and both Malon Al-Jiboori and Niama Fualaau spent last series as 13th men and getting some spot time, they are not expected to contribute as much as the core group of 10 players. That nucleus of 10 players are familiar with each and should have the chemistry to carry the team to a top 4 finish.
Optimist’s View: The team fights its way through a tough group and goes 2-1 then makes it to semi-final before finishing 4th.
Cynic’s View: They make the quarterfinals but don’t do well to proceed and rebound to make the plate final before losing and finishing 6th.
My View: The USA has me feeling optimistic, so we will go with the optimist view of the Eagles making the 3rd place match, except this time they win it to claim 3rd.
This is the first tournament of the tour and with no prior form to pick from, we must base it on last year’s performance. However, each nation’s traditional abilities and pedigree will also be factored into things.
Here are my Pool Previews:
South Africa will cruise to an undefeated first day. Canada will battle it out with Kenya for 2nd place and we see Canada shading it and claiming second place. Uganda will be in for a long day and will probably only have one good game, the one against bitter rivals the Kenyans.
England and Scotland will top this group. The two eternal rivals will push each other as the revived Scotland will look to send a message. France will not go down without a fight but based on last year’s form of the top 2 groups, they just won’t be able to make the cup quarterfinals. Spain is always competitive but this is not the group for them.
Fiji will win this pool going away. Australia should take second despite playing against feisty sides in Wales and Russia. Wales is our favorite to take 3rd place but it is possible that Russia could upset them and claim 3rd place.
New Zealand will battle with USA to top this group. The USA could win this pool, but it won’t be easy. Argentina will be a handful to both the two favorites but they will likely be edged in two close matches. Samoa are notorious slow starters and they are likely to come in last in this pool.
Final standings will be:
Cup: South Africa
Challenge Trophy: Argentina