DUBAI, UAE – The 2018/2019 HSBC Men’s Sevens Series kickoffs this weekend as it has for the past few seasons in Dubai. Last weekend saw the awards for the 2017/2018 season and any overlooked players and teams will have an axe to grind and be able to state their case for next season. Let’s take a look at the @Eagles7s team and take a stab at predicting the tournament.
The World Cup is over and the new goal is automatic Olympic Qualification. The top 6 teams will automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Considering the USA has finished 5th, 5th and 6th, the last 3 years under Head Coach Mike Friday, this should not be a problem. What American Rugby fans are waiting on is a top 4 finish. With that said, lets take a look at the three main issues that stand out into this tournament.
1) Team changes (+/-): There are 2 changes to the USA squad from the RWC7s. Shockingly there was no room for Maka Unufe . I was unable to get confirmation if this was injury related or not but as no mention was made of an injury, maybe this is proof of the program progress to the point that a guy who was essentially the 8th man last two seasons has been pushed to the side as his teammates improved along with newcomers. Speaking of newcomers, Cody Melphy was a deep bench option but was improving with increased game time last season due to injuries in the squad also didn’t make the cut. The pair were replaced by Maceo Brown and Marcus Tupuola.
2) Stay focused: Seems simple but int he RWC7s, the USA lost focus at the end of the England game and that was the difference as the game was in extra time. Then they lost focus against Argentina and slumped to 6th. Don’t lose focus in the game and don’t lose focus about the overall goal because of 1 loss.
3) Good Day One: The USA notoriously starts slow in the series. Though they get hot later on, if they hope to become a top 4 side, they need to have a good day 1 in order to give them the chance of a top 8, preferably top 4 finish.
Optimist’s View: They will have a good start and finish 5th
Pessimist’s View: They will continue their poor starts and finish 9th.
My View: I think I will split the difference and have them finish 5th.
Season opening tournaments are always hard to judge. There is no previous form and a lot of changes can happen from the previous season. Using my preview of the 2018/19 World Rugby HSBC Mens 7s World Series, I will give my best guess as to who will win it all in Colorado.
Here are the Pool Previews:
South Africa should win this group but I don’t expect it to be easy. Samoa will be physical and competitive and Argentina are capable of an upset on their day. They will likely win but it will be close. It will be a battle between Argentina and Samoa for second place and based on how the two teams did last season and in the RWC7s, I think it will be Argentina that come second and Samoa third. Fourth will see Zimbabwe will bring up the rear as most invites usually do.
Fiji will win this group. I am confident of it. They will face a good stern challenge from Kenya and France won’t go quietly but in the end, the group goes to Fiji. Kenya and France will duke it out for second and my gut tells me that the winner will be Kenya, while France has to console its self with third. Scotland are always a tough proposition but they may not have it all together in the key moments of a match to seal a victory, which will be the case this weekend.
This is another competitive pool even though New Zealand are the runaway favorites to win the group. If the real USA arrives they should easily take second place in the pool. However, if the notorious slow starting USA show up, they could go down to Spain and Wales, both. I believe they will show up and come in second. In third place, will be Spain above Wales who will be last. The two programs seem to have two different trajectories with the Spanish on an upswing and the Welsh on the down swing.
This is another competitive pool but if pedigree and RWC7s form holds the winner will be England. Canada could upset Australia but they won’t because as notoriously slow as the USA is on the tour, Canada is worse. They usually don’t wake up until after the 4th leg. So it will be Australia followed by Canada then finally Japan, who will likely be at the bottom of pool play every leg.
Final standings will be:
Second: New Zealand
Third: South Africa
Challenge Trophy: Samoa
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.