SINGAPORE – The world’s only island city-state, Singapore, will host the 8th leg of the 2017/2018 World Rugby HSBC 7s series this weekend. This leg is a bit later than last year as there was a 3 week break for the Commonwealth games, making this leg the home stretch to finish the series. There is no better place for the party than Sinkers.
The USA’s showing in the last tournament, Hong Kong, was good and shows the USA finding a way to consistently make the Cup playoffs, positioning they will need to replicate if they hope to jump from sixth to fourth. If the @Eagles7s finish fourth it will be the first time ever in the program’s history.
Let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There have been 2.5 changes to the USA side since Hong Kong. Malon Al-Jibooricomes on as Maka Unufe recovers from a knock taken in Hong Kong. Playmaker and hearbeat of the team, Folau Niua, is suffering from fatigue and was ruled out, so Cody Melphy will go in his place. The 13th man on the tour will be debutant Tala Talapusi.
Need a new heart: He may not show up in the stat sheet, but Folau Niua is the most important guy on the USA squad. He is usually playing scrum half or flyhalf on attack and sweepr on the defense. He creates space in attack and helps stop tries on defense. Adding to his workload this season has been the injury to Madison Hughes, meaning Niua is out on the pitch longer as the main play setter. The freakish ability of Maka Unufe has been a relief to Niua, except that Unufe has also had struggles stay fit this season. Niua has been the team’s talisman, so replacing him won’t be easy. A new team talisman will need to be found for this leg.
We are not sure who will step-up but somebody needs to.
Dig Deep: We have no idea who will be the person that steps up to make a difference, but if the USA is to make the Cup Playoffs then someone will. The ability to adjust and overcome has to be found.
Optimist’s View: The Eagles will finish 7th. This may seem low but all things considered it will be an achievement.
Cynic’s View: The Eagles will lose in the Challenge Trophy final. I just don’t see them making the Cup playoffs but playing better on day 2.
My View: I actually side with the Cynic’s View. The team is wounded and I think they are in for a poor first day and maybe a decent second day.
SINGAPORE 7s (#SgRugby7s ):
South Africa and Fiji are in a very tight battle for the World 7s Series title, separated by just 3 points. Meanwhile the battle for 4th place has four teams separated by seven points, including the USA. The tension and pressure has just cranked up and, as they say, pressure can either bust pipes or make diamonds.
Some team will become a diamond under this strain.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji will win this group running away. Spain are the favorites to come in second though they could face a scare from Russia who can be unpredictable. Russia is still a better bet than Japan to finish third.
Kenya will have its hands full trying to win this group as this is the group of death. England will fight them for the top spot without a doubt, if the good England shows up. In addition, there is a French side that will have some momentum from a good Hong Kong Tournament. This means that the USA will struggle on Day 1 to find its feet.
South Africa has the best chance of winning this group. However, Argentina have made the cup playoffs the last two rounds, so they will be dangerous. Canada are still rebuilding, so they are hard to predict. The unpredictable Samoans will likely be last – unless they bring their title-winning Samoa mentality and cause some upsets.
New Zealand will likely win a narrow one against the Australia to win the group. Scotland should win third and Wales will likely finish fourth as they are the least talented team in this tough group.
Finally, here are my predictions for the playoffs and the team that will win promotion to core status:
Second: New Zealand
Third: South Africa
Challenge Trophy: France
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, @Matt_McCarthy00, @JWB_RWU, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @MichaelHalsey24, @MeetTheMatts, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.