GLENDALE, COLORADO, USA – The 2018/2019 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series heads into its first leg of the season this weekend. This year the women are back up to six legs compared to the Men’s ten, which is a marked improvement by World Rugby. This year’s kickoff tournament will not be in Dubai like the men, but will be in beautiful Glendale, Colorado, the small city outside of Denver that deservedly calls itself Rugbytown, USA. Let’s see how @USAWomens7s team looks going in to this leg and take a stab at predicting the tournament.
A new era begins (yet again) as new USA Head Coach Chris Brown leads the ladies out for the first time. He now needs his charges to bounce back from that and prepare for Rio. Once again, we take a look at the three main issues that stand out going into this tournament for the women’s program.
1) Team changes (+/-): There are 4 changes to the USA squad from 7s RWC. It would seem like a lot, but it may be a good balance. Coach Brown has selected 8 players that were part of the team that made the 7s RWC semi-finals on their way to securing 4th place. On the other hand, he also brought back experienced campaigner Alev Kelter in for Ryan Caryle, which seems like a clear coaching decision as both players are part of the overall roster and have a history of battling each other to make the squad.
The big change is that Coach Brown brought on two members, Stephanie Rovetti and Alena Olsen of the club national 7s champions, San Diego Surfers, and Lauren Thunen who performed well at the U20 Women’s Tri-Nations Cup. The trio of debutants could be joined by another rookie, reservist Kasey McCravey should anyone go down injured. Veterans Kelly Griffin, Joanne Fa’avesi and Kate Zackary seem to be the ones losing out to the young bloods.
2) Home Cooking: Last time there was a 7s stop in the US, the USA performed well and made it to the semi-finals. Combine that with their performance at the home 7s RWC and it is clear that when the USA is at home they usually do well. That will be key with a new coach, a few debutants, and everyone’s first game together. The crowd and support should help the USA get over the jitters and maybe slay a giant or two.
3) Chemistry: You have 3 brand new players at this level. A coach in his first game with the squad and who hasn’t had the most time with the team. To be fair, former coach Richie Walker was kind of dumped in there himself so it is not new but barely two months with the squad, the new players and most likely the tactical changes a coach will begin making. It will be interesting to see how it all clicks on opening day.
Optimist’s View: There will be the new coach bump plus playing at home, so I see them finishing 3rd.
Pessimist’s View: The chemistry might be a little off so I can see them finishing 6th.
My View: I think they will make par for playing at home and finish 4th.
USA 7s Glendale Predictions:
Season opening tournaments are always hard to judge. There is no previous form, except from last year and as the USA proves, a lot of changes can happen from the previous season. Using my preview of the 2018/19 World Rugby HSBC Womens 7s World Series, I will give my best guess as to who will win it all in Colorado.
Here are the Pool Previews:
Australia should have no problem topping this group. They will likely go 3-0. The real battle will be for second place and making the cup round. Russia’s and Spain’s head to head match will likely be the decider as they will both lose to Australia and both beat Mexico. The smart money says Russia edges Spain due to a last minute try. Mexico will bring up the rear as most invites usually do.
New Zealand are the bookies favorite to win this group. That is hard to argue. Once again, the battle for second place will be the real battle of this group. As with Group A, the head to head between the USA and England will tell us who moves on to the knockout round. With the USA at home and England’s inconsistent form, I strongly see the USA winning the match and going second in the group. The new kids on the block, China, will finish dead last as this will be a rude awakening.
This is the most competitive pool of the three. Canada and France will fight it out for first but you would be a fool to rule out a Fiji upset of one of the two. At the same time, Ireland may not be able to hang with the top 2 but they could take a Fiji scalp. I can see the winner of this group having two wins and one loss while second place is decided by point differential as the teams are tied at 1 win and two losses.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand
Challenge Trophy: England
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.