PARIS, FRANCE – The lights are coming on and it is last call in the World Rugby Seves Series bar. Let me get one more for the road barkeep and make it a special!
That is why we are in Paris for the 10th and final leg of the 2017/2018 World Rugby HSBC 7s series this weekend. The USA is fighting to hold onto 5th place while Fiji is trying to wrap up another series title. It is going to be a lights out weekend in the City of Light.
The USA’s showing in their last tournament, London, was positive and consistent. The USA had a solid first day and a not as good second day, but the team showed great creativity and unity overall. The return of the two key playmakers was also positive. The@Eagles7s have the inside track on fifth place and an outside chance at fourth. However, it would take a miracle to move up to fourth considering the amount of injuries the Americans have dealt with this season.
Overall, it would be very significant for the program to hold on to fifth place and finish two seasons in a row at fifth. The achievement would be huge for the Eagles 7s program.
Let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There is one change to the squad as Alex Schwarz comes in for the injured Matai Leuta. No one is sure if head coach Mike Friday will move Schwarz on the match day squad as a direct replacement or make him the 13th man to be used in case of injury. Faitala Talapusi was London’s 13th man, so he will likely move into the matchday 12 (or be the 13th man again depending on what happens to Schwarz).
Patience: In the USA’s loses last weekend there seemed to be a lack of patience as they rushed to recreate the magic from the first day. They will need to more patient in attack and defense.
Get it to Carlin, in space: Carlin Isles cleared concussion protocols this week, giving the USA a speed threat again this weekend. To continue their winning streak the USA needs to find Isles with enough space to do damage.
Optimist’s View: The Eagles seem set to finishing fourth. I can see them easily getting out of their group and winning their first match on the second day.
Cynic’s View: The Eagles will win the Challenge Trophy final. The team looks in good condition in a group where they should be able to make the cup playoffs, so if they don’t I think winning the Challenge Trophy would be their next achievable goal.
My View: I think they will finish sixth, again. I see the USA going 1-2 on day two and it is where they will get their first loss of the day that separates where they finish. I fear they will lose their first game of the second day. I don’t know why, I just worry about it.
LONDON 7s (#London7s ):
South Africa and Fiji are separated by 7 points so as long as Fiji makes the Cup playoffs, they will win the series. South Africa has not given up the chase yet and they will not give up until the end of the tournament. New Zealand and Australia have third and fourth wrapped up. The place USA occupies (fifth) is the place that looks to be most competitive of all the top five competitive positions in the rankings. Fifth through eighth are only separated by a total point different of 7 points.
Here are our pool previews:
Fiji and New Zealand will win this group with ease. Kenya is not to be underestimated, but they will have to put on a special performance to leap frog on the top two league positions. Samoa seem to have gone of the boil and will likely finish last in the pool.
This pool will be won by the South Africans. The Scots and the Canadians are rivals so it will make for a great fight for second. Russia doesn’t have the ability to do much of anything.
Australia will likely top the group. We expect Spain to bounce back from last week based on a gut instinct. Ireland will struggle to repeat last week’s efforts but we will see. Wales are in a theoretical bag on trying to not deserve it.
England and the USA will win this group running away. Third goes to France. France will finish a tough but not that tele-an side.
Finally, here are my predictions for the playoffs:
Third: New Zealand seems the most logical yuens.
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.