LONDON, ENGLAND – Welcome to one of the most important places in Rugby history, London. Rugby was born in England and Twickenham is England’s national stadium for Rugby which was done long before any other country had a national rugby specific stadium. London will host the 9th and penultimate leg of the 2017/2018 World Rugby HSBC 7s series this weekend. , Considering the importance of this leg for the USA and the World Rankings, there is no better place to host it than London.
The USA’s showing in the last tournament, Singapore, was great as they won the Challenge Trophy. I say great because they were lacking their two first choice playmaker and the key back-up to those playmakers. Barring a major collapse by Australia, it doesn’t look like @Eagles7s can close on fourth place, however considering the amount of injuries they have dealt with this season, it would be very significant for the program to be able to hold onto 5th place and finish two seasons in a row at 5th. replicate if they hope to jump from sixth to fourth. If they somehow manage to 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 changes to the USA side since Hong Kong. Maka Unufe is still at Chula Vista healing and he has been joined there by the irreplaceable Perry Baker. As big as a blow as losing baker is, the return of playmaker and hearbeat of the team, Folau Niua, is huge. Returning too is Madison Hughes who replaces Cody Melphy and takes the captain’s armband from Ben Pinkelman. I just want to take a minute and acknowledge the fantastic job as Pinkelman did deputizing for Hughes. The 13th man on the tour once again will be Tala Talapusi.
Welcome Back: Folau Niua and Madison Hughes’ will breathe new life into the USA attack. They struggled in Singapore with out a true playmaker. They now have their best two bake hopefully they can help make-up for not having baker since they have a healthy Carlin Isles that just needs some space.
Find Carlin: With the return of the playmakers and the return to form of Carlin Isles the USA should be able to dominate games by finding space and finding Carlin Isles. As I predicted, it took Isles almost a year to recover his form from injury and be able to cut and shift gears like he use to. As he showed on the second day in Singapore where he scored 7 tries in 3 games, he is back to his best.
Optimist’s View: The Eagles will finish 4th. This may seem high but they have a good history in London and I can see them making the Cup playoffs and with the right draw winning their first game before losing the next two.
Cynic’s View: The Eagles will win the Challenge Trophy final. The USA is in a very tough group so it is hard to see how they can make the cup playoffs.
My View: For some reason they have the same pool opponents in London as they did in Singapore. The USA defeated France, narrowly lost to England and then were dominated by Kenya. I see them making the Cup Playoffs and finishing fifth because I can see the USA beating France losing to England at home and then beating Kenya since they are due for a win against Kenya. Then on day two, they get a tough draw and lose the first one before winning the next two.
LONDON 7s (#London7s ):
South Africa and Fiji are separated by a mere 4 points so this battle will go down to the wire. New Zealand and Australia have third and fourth wrapped up, barring an epic disaster in the final two rounds. New Zealand is unlikely but the Aussies have had some really bad tournaments so it is well within the realm of possibilites that the USA could snatch fourth. However the USA is tied with Kenya for fifth and have to also fight off Argentina and England who are within five points of fifth. It is squeaky bum time and we have the best view.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji and New Zealand will win this group with ease. Scotland will put up a fight but they have two of the best teams in the series in their group and I don’t see how that can be overcome. In Singapore, Argentina put out a relatively young group as more senior players where needed elsewhere. It appears they maybe doing it again this weekend and for that just assures that they will last in this group.
This is a weak pool as no team has the pedigree it feels to challenge for the Cup properly. Australia is the best team in the pool show so they should finish first. Wales and Spain are close but with Wales closer to home they were my back-ups for Pool B. This means the final team in the pool and literally coming up last Ireland.
England will be at home and so are the heavy favorites to win this group. I feel the USA is much better and since I picked them to make the quarterfinals, I have to believe they will make it out of this group. I think I am due a bit of luck against Kenya as the USA have struggled against Kenya all season so that is the tie-breaker that has them has the best chance of winning this group. However, Kenya is very dangerous and not only have they made a serious climb up the rankings, they may get their best ever standing position. So they may pull it off against the USA but I am looking for them to be third and France who are a good side, but just not when you look at the other teams in this group.
South Africa will win this group running away. Second place will likely go to Samoa but don’t be surprised if they are upset for second by Canada. Russia will likely finish fourth as they are the least talented team in this group.
Finally, here are my predictions for the playoffs:
Third: New Zealand
Challenge Trophy: Canada
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.