LAS VEGAS, USA – The entity then known as USA Sevens LLC was thought to be insane when they bid to host a leg of the HSBC 7s World Series years back in 2003. The IRB, now known as World Rugby, shocked people when it awarded the USA a leg for the 2004 Series. It started in Los Angeles for 3 years, worked it’s way to San Diego for another 3 years, and has been here in Sin City since 2010. In retrospect, it should have been Vegas all along. I am not privy to the inner workings of the decision but combining the party that is a HSBC 7s World Series stop with one of the greatest party cities ever created, was brilliant. It worked for the Dubai 7s, so it is no surprise to see the tournament go from strength to strength. Anyway, that’s enough reflection/history for today. Let’s get to what we do best (debatable, I know). Let’s analyze @Eagle7s for this tournament and get to my bold/precarious predictions on who will top pool play and win the tournament.
Building Depth is a popular coach phrase because every coach knows you will have a season where the physio room looks like a MASH unit. The Eagles have had an injury in every leg to date that have taken players (like Madison Hughes and Stephen Tomasin) away. Head Coach Mike Friday is saying all the right things. “We look forward to seeing the team’s continuous growth and evolution with newer players that will wear the Eagle jersey.” However, you know he was hoping to call guys up on his timetable and not have it dictated by injury. If the USA team can all stay healthy, it makes them a much more dangerous prospect in Vegas.
3 Key Issues:
Team changes (+/-): The Eagles lost Hughes and Tomasin in Sydney, going from a 13-man squad to 11. So the Falcons (Eagles 2nd side) player Nicklas Boyer was flown out to give them a squad of 12 for Hamilton. For Las Vegas, they go back to 13, with Boyer being replaced by AIG collegiate All-Americans star Cody Melphy. Returning to the series after spending the last few months with the Men’s 15s team, is Malon Al-Jiboori. He earned a cap and a try in an Americas Rugby Championship match.
Stay Healthy: If the Eagles can stay healthy they stand a good chance of making the semi-finals. Health will allow coach Friday to sub at a more controlled pace and strategically work in the likes of Melphy, Joe Schroeder and Chris Mattina can really help them succeed.
Home Cooking: As with most teams on the circuit, playing in front of your fans does nothing but improve your performance. The USA finished in 3rd place last year and could finish at least that high again this weekend, energized by their fans. They need the energy, as they are currently 24 points from finishing 4th. That would be their highest-ever finish. They need 12 points to match last year’s 5th place. The hot streak has to start this weekend in front of their home crowd.
Optimist’s View: They finally win it all. Lots of hope will have to come to fruition, and granted, it has been a while since they last won it all in London… but why not here and why not now?
Cynic’s View: The cynic called the Hamilton Challenge Trophy win last time out so don’t discount him. This view says they finish 5th because they are missing two key players and that will catch up to them in the Cup playoffs.
My View: I want to go with the Cynic but I will split the difference and say they repeat last year’s feat and finish 3rd.
Las Vegas 7s:
Last time out I mentioned how you can only count on 4 sides (South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji and England) making the quarterfinals every leg. Predicting who else makes it out is a crap shoot. But I feel like I have a hot hand, so let me throw out the dice see if I get a 7…
Here are my pool previews:
Fiji will top this group without breaking a sweat. They just have more class than anyone else in the pool… Kenya have the ability to make Fiji sweat. If they click they should definitely make it out of the pool in front of the very large Kenyan contingent that always travels to Vegas… France has shown no ability to be better than third in this pool and Russia are simply not that good so they will finish fourth.
This what I wrote in Hamilton about the top two teams: “This is another pool that is relatively easy to predict. South Africa is the best team on the tour right now and England is historically top 4, so the pair will easily top the pool.” Nothing has changed and I expect those two to make the cup playoffs. As for the bottom two, it is tricky. Wales have under-preformed a bit and I am really disappointed in Canada‘s performance to date. As a result, I am picking Wales to finish third and Canada last.
This pool gets a little trickier. The USA has beaten all these teams and the top three of USA, Australia and Samoa could beat each other on any given day. However, I back the Eagles to top the pool playing at home. Australia has been in more consistent form than Samoa, so I am picking the Aussies also… NOTE: The Aussies failing to get out of the pool does help the USA’S chances of eventually claiming 4th in the final standings… Last will be Spain because the other 3 are just better.
This was somewhat easier pool to predict because New Zealand is clearly the best side in the pool… Argentina has been moving from strength to strength and though they will face a stern challenge from Scotland, I think the Argies will edge them… Uruguay are the guest team of the tournament and will look to be more competitive in day 2 as they will get rolled in day 1.
Final standings will be:
Second: South Africa
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below. And remember to stay low and keep pumping those legs!
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