After the first event held at covered BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, the Canada Sevens looks to be a key event on the HSBC Sevens Series. Played under the roof, so ironically with this inclement weather forecast, while it might be a Cold Climate, Hot Rugby Sevens Action is certainly more than likely this weekend at the HSBC Canada 7’s.
It is half way through the World Series this weekend, with the HSBC Canada 7’s taking full attention from March 11-12. It is Round Six on the circuit, and there is only one story so far in 2016/17: the Blitzboks of South Africa.
They have played in all five finals thus far, losing only twice in their last 30 matches–both times to the England. This week at the Canada 7’s it is all about overcoming that one side, and that must be the mission de rigueur for the rest of the 15 teams in the series. The lead that they hold over the other teams, that soon it will become insurmountable.
HSBC Canada 7’s–Cold Climate, Hot Rugby Sevens Action!
With the success of its inaugural debut event last season; where the Kiwis ran supreme over the Blitzboks, the Canadian 7’s promises to be bigger and better. Another 70,000+ sellout crowd will be expected across this weekend, warming up the ‘hot rugby sevens action’ at the covered stadium, BC Place.
With low temperatures and snow on the ground, players will be thankful for the warm environment–even though artificial grass is not every players preference [after the Vegas fake surface had question marks over it’s performance last week].
But on the field is where the game is won and lost. Since every side is chasing the South African’s, that team needs to be sure they don’t trip on any banana skins this weekend.
Canada 7’s – The LOWDOWN
The puck drop 👊🏻
It's all smiles ahead of the @canadasevens but come Saturday game faces will be on 😑
Pool A – South Africa, England, Kenya, Chile
They might be unstoppable but last week they showed the depth they possess to fill the void behind by key players who are moving on or nursing injuries. Even without Kwagga Smith and super-flyer Seabelo Senatla they still managed to win that too against the best exponents of the game
Fiji: the understanding and team camaraderie stood out with newbie Zain Davids fitting in well like a missing jigsaw puzzle. It will take a team effort to beat the Blitzboks and their forwards oriented opponents Kenya and England have what it takes. Countering the Boks in the breakdown is the only way to beat them, slowing their ball retention with rush defense to shutdown their quick players. Maintaining discipline while starving them of possessions are other key areas in which they can be defeated.
In third spot in the series, after their dismal performance in Las Vegas–finishing in fifth place. England will be looking for redemption and what a way to do that by stopping the Blitzboks in Pool play. They like the Kenyans have the arsenal to counter the Africans but determination and execution will be vital. They have the forwards with Richard De Carpentier and James Rodwell. Ruaridh McConnochie, Tom Mitchell and Tom Bowen have been outstanding this season if they turn up this weekend they can mount a challenge.
Inconsistency plagues their game but they tend to show up when they play their fellow Africans. Billy Odhiambo, Willy Ambaka and Andrew Amonde have to step up with Collins Injera if they want a top eight finish this weekend. The senior players have to compliment rising stars like Bush Mwale, Nelson Oyoo, Samuel Oilech and Frank Wanyama.
They were very competitive last weekend and will be looking for their first victory in Vancouver. The South Americans are using this tournament as build up, to the Hong Kong Sevens series qualifier (tbc). What a better way to test the relatively inexperienced team than than on the world stage.
Pool B – Fiji, Argentina, Samoa, Wales
They have only themselves to blame for their loss last weekend in Vegas. Indiscipline, missed tackles and indecision cost them dearly, as the Bltzbok capitalized on it in the final. Breakdown is a major problem for Fiji–fix that and they might be in the podium this weekend with the title.
Mesulame Kunavula has been revelation and will be the one to watch this weekend, with Kilione Nasoko. However, Nasoko needs to work on his discipline–while he may have a high work rate–giving away penalties costs you games. DHL Impact Player for Vegas Vatemo Ravouvou is another to watch, together with Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Jerry Tuwai and Apisai Domolailai.
Injury to Joeli Lutumailagi has coach Gareth Baber calling on Nacanieli Labalaba. Also under injury cloud are nippy halfback Tuwai and captain courageous Osea Kolinisau. Not only have they got injury worries, but two players will be missing games due to suspensions: Vatemo Ravouvou will miss a game, while Sevuloni Mocenacagi will sit out three.
The South Americans like Kenya struggle with consistency but their rookies look consistent in their performance. Gaston Revol, Franco Sabato and Fernando Luna have lead their youngsters well with Matias Ocsaduk the standout. They lost to the leaders South Africa last weekend in the Cup Quarters and will be vying to go one better.
Samoa had their best outing for the season last weekend with the return of Falemiga Selesele, Alex Samoa and Afa Aiono. Samoa lost to Kenya in the Challenge Trophy final and will be without the injured Selesele. However, rookie Laaloi Leilua continues to impress with Alamada Motuga. They are in a tough pool and will be taking all game as if it’s the final.
The Scarlets have already beaten Fiji this season and if they do it again it will open up their pool. Morgan Williams, Luke Treharne Sam Cross will need to bring their A-game. Anything can happen in this pool and a bounce of a ball can decide your fate.
Pool C – USA, Aus, France, Japan
Team USA were very impressive last weekend but the question is ‘can they follow that up?’ When their big forwards are on song, they are hard to contain. Danny Barrett and Andrew Durutalo were on song with super-sub Maka Unufe.
Consistency is the key in Vancouver, protect your lead and avoid catch up rugby. Support should also be a key; like in Vegas, so feeding of the fans attention is an element in their favour this weekend.
Finding a way to blend the old with the new and with few more tournaments they will be a team to beat. Tom Lucas will lead the side this week after Sam Meyers picked up an injury in Vegas. Using James Stannard too off the bench is the way forward for them. Lachie Anderson was impressive last weekend, can he do it again?. One to watch Tim Anstee.
The French are unpredictable but with Terry Bourahoua back in the team they can create upsets. They need to be more physical with little more determination and passion. Jeremy Alcardi continues to shine but the others need to step up.
The Brave Blossoms were impressive, with the return of Kameli Soejima and Katsuyuki Sakai. Not to be underestimated as they will pounce on you like a ninja in a morning dew. Blending his troops has been hard for coach Damian Karauna but he is getting there.
Pool D – NZL, Canada, Scotland, Russia
Defending champions have a habit their title and we shouldn’t count them out. Last year they won with an injury depleted squad imagine what they can do with a fully fit side. Apart from England and Kenya, the Kiwis have the technical know-how to beat the Blitzboks but execution is their [major] problem.
On the other hand Vilimoni Koroi is answering their play-making call, with some outstanding support play (as well as his enormous sidestep). Trael Joass is the one to watch, a player growing with every game while Tim Mikkelson is his ever reliable self.
The hosts will be hungry at home no doubt, and with Justin Douglas playing such great rugby, be worried. Harry Jones , Mike Fualeifau, Adam Zaruba and Nathan Hirayama will call on all their experience if they want another good outing at home.
The Scots were disappointing last weekend and this week it’s all about redemption. Protecting your lead and killing away games is the only thing they need to work on. Jamie Farndale was outstanding but the others have to bring that braveheart spirit of William Wallace to their game.
The Bears have been consistent with players like German Davydov coming out of their usual comfort zone. They are physical but need more innovation in their pattern; both laterally and defensively. Wrong decisions have cost them dearly in the past–rectify that, and well…. the world series is the perfect place to ‘grow the game’ in Russia.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Standings: South Africa 107 | Fiji 83 | England 81 | New Zealand 71 | Australia 52 | United States 52 | Scotland 50 | Argentina 45 | Wales 43 | France 40 | Kenya 35 | Canada 34 | Samoa 23 | Russia 17 | Japan 10 | Uganda 4 | Papua New Guinea 2 | Chile 1
Follow all the action across the weekend, with Last Word On Rugby bringing you full coverage of Day One and Day Two action.
“Main photo credit”