The eighth round of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series moves to Singapore this weekend. The Lion City will host 16 teams all vying for the Singapore title. Kenya are the defending champions, with Hong Kong again the invitational side for this tournament.
Fiji is looking for their maiden back-to-back title of 2016/17, after claiming the Hong Kong title. World Series leaders South Africa will be seeking their redemption, and to put the once on-target title run. They have the points base, and just need to secure the points required.
Kenya will be hoping for a miracle to defend their title, with United States chasing the second ever series title. New Zealand, Samoa and Australia lead the Oceania challenge, hoping to better the top sides. Focus will be the key, as the Easter festivities must be respected, but the team who plays hardest over two days will be successful at the 2017 Singapore Sevens.
Pool A – Fiji, Canada, Russia, Hong Kong
Fiji has made four changes to the side that won the Hong Kong Sevens. Vatemo Ravouvou, who was very instrumental at playmaker over the weekend, misses out due to injury. Together with strongman Apisai Domolailai and winger Joeli Lutumailagi they have been replaced by Josua Vici, and two new debutantes. Paula Dranisinikula and Lemeki Tulele.
The influence of Isake Katonibau was highly effective last week and they will build on that, as Fiji hope to back-up strongly. They played a patient game last week, building slowly, keeping their shape in offence and defense. It worked out perfectly, as they ‘brought it all out’ in the final.
Rookies Kilione Nasoko and Mesulame Kunavula will be the ones to watch this weekend together with Tulele and Dranisinikula if given a chance. Be wary of Sevuloni Mocenacagi as he grows in his new role at rover.
Fijian squad: Isake Katonibau, Jasa Veremalua, Kalione Nasoko, Paula Dranisinukula, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Mesulame Kunavula, Osea Kolinisau, Waisea Nacuqu, Jerry Tuwai, Amenoni Nasilasila, Josua Vici, Lemeki Tulele, Setareki Bituniyata, Nacanieli Labalaba.
Canada faltered when they needed to be at top of their game last week. They always start well against the big boys but have a bad habit of fading in the second spell. If they are able to put together a 14 minutes performance they will be top contenders in every tournament.
Coach Damian McGrath has brought a new sense of belief in the team; it’s now up to his men to execute their plans on the field. Mike Fualeifau and Justin Douglas will be vital again with this weekend, beside Harry Jones and Nathan Hirayama. Pat Kay returns this week and replaces Tevaughan Campbell.
Canadian squad: Matt Mullins, Jared Douglas, Mike Fualeifau, John Moonlight, Luke McGloskey, Isaac Kay, Lucas Hammond, Justin Douglas, Nathan Hirayama, Pat Kay, Harry Jones, Josiah Morra, Luke Bradley.
The influence of Vladmir Ostronshko was evident in Hong Kong, as he led from the front doing the hard yards with, and without the ball. His work rate was on top of everyone else and Ostronshko was rewarded with the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award.
Russia needs to stay clear of the bottom of the series table, but Japan will fight them ‘tooth and nail’ to cement their position next season. The bottom team gets relegated with Spain; winners of the Qualifier last week, replacing them. Russia have three rounds left to perform, and to survive in the ‘big time’.
Russian squad: Vladmir Ostronshko, Stanislav Bondarev, Vladislav Sozonov, Vladislav Lazarenko, Alezey Kapalin, Vitaly Zhivatov, Eduard Filatov, Dmitry Sukhin, Ilya Babaev, Yury Gostyuzhev, Ivan Kotov, German Davydov, Timur Urazakov.
The Paul John coached side was disappointed last week, losing to Germany in the quarterfinals of the Men’s Sevens Series Qualifier. A stray kick that shouldn’t have been made cost them the game, right at the hooter.
For them, its redemption week and maybe the Singapore weather can give them an edge to upset some big guns. Jack Capon and Charles Higson-Smith come in for Mark Wright and Ben Rimene as replacements. They will be crowd favourites, so if they can peak for the Canada game, a possible quarter final isn’t out of the question.
Hong Kong squad: Max Woodward, Michael Coverdale, Ryan Meachem, Lee Jones, Toby Fenn, Cado Lee Ka To, Jack Capon, Chris Maize, Rowan Varty, Jamie Hood, Jason Scott Jeyem, Salom Shing, Charles Higson-Smith.
Pool B – South Africa, England, France, Japan
The World Series leaders have only made one change to their side, calling up Sandile Ngcobo to replace Selvyn Davids. They will try to get back at the Fijians here, who left them scoreless in the final with a fierce defensive pattern in the final.
So this week, the Blitzbok must find a way to correct those errors, They were denied possession and they didn’t know how to respond to the Fijian onslaught. This week will be very interesting if the two teams meet again. How will the South Africans respond? It will be a test of their championship quality.
Blitzboks squad: Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, Werner Kok, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Branco Du Preez, Tim Agaba, Cecil Afrika, Stedman-Ghee Gans, Sandile Ngcobo, Ruhan Nel, Ryan Oosthuizen.
The English have three changes from their team last weekend, and crucially will be without Captain Tom Mitchell too. William Glover, Harry Glover and William Edwards come in for Ethan Waddleton, Charlton Kerr and Mitchell respectively.
The English ‘lost the plot’ in Hong Kong and will be fighting to get their title hopes back on track. They have the players but lack consistency and urgency. It might be repeating ourselves, but the big guns need to perform.
English squad: Richard De Carpentier, Charlie Hayter, Phil Burgess, Dan Norton, James Rodwell, William Edwards, Dan Bibby, Tom Bowen, Oliver Lindsay-Hague, Ruadrih McConnochie, William Glover, Callum Sirker, Harry Glover.
Two changes have been made to the French side, with Alexis Palisson and Pierre Fouyssac coming in for Bastien Berenquel and Captain Fantastic Terry Bouhraoua. The late withdrawl of Virimi Vakatawa and injury to Bouhraoua affected their game at the So Kon Po Stadium and France must rectify that loss to succeed here.
With a fiery coach in Frederic Pommarel, expect the French to ‘turn up the heat’ in one the hottest pools here in Singapore. Alexandre Lagarde continues to shine and will be one to watch. Les Bleus must show some fight, otherwise the series will pass them by.
French squad: Jonathan Laugel, Manoel Dall’Igna, Jean Baptiste Mazoue, Vincent Inigo, Stephen Parez, Jean Pascal Barraque, Pierre Fouyssac, Pierre Gilles Lakafia, Alexis Pallison, Pierre Popelin, Sacha Valleau, Alexandre Lagarde, Jeremy Aicardi.
Japan unleashed new star players Siosifa Lisala and Jone Naikabula last weekend. They were devastating in all aspects of the game, with Kameli Soejima and Katsuyuki Sakai putting in great performances. They definitely need a top eight finish here, to overtake Russia and raise themselves off the bottom of the table.
Japanese squad: Yoshiaki Tsurugasaki, Dallas Tatana, Kameli Soejima, Jonmoon Han, Patrick Stehlin, Dai Ozawa, Katsuyuki Sakai, Rikiya Oishi, Jone Naikabula, Kosuke Hashino, Mashiro Nakano, Siosifa Lisala, Hironori Yatomi.
Pool C – Australia, Argentina, Kenya, Samoa
The ever improving Aussies have only made one change to their side, due to injury to big forward Boyd Killingworth. Dylan Pietsch comes in as the 13th man, with Tom Kingston moving into the game day squad. They are unpredictable and the Aussie squad are learning fast what pressure is like on the circuit.
Even though they have yet to take any gold, or regularly reach the Cup final stages, teams still need to show caution. As quickly as you discount them, they will be all over you if taken lightly. They maybe young but the Australians have some players who have a swagger, like Charlie Taylor, Tim Anstee, together with Liam McNamara and Lachie Anderson.
Australian squad: Henry Hutchison, Simon Kennewell, Nic Malouf, Liam McNamara, James Stannard, John Porch, Tim Anstee, Tom Kingston, Ed Jenkins, Tom Lucas, Charlie Taylor, Lachlan Anderson, Dylan Pietsch.
Consistency, urgency and the will to finish off games. That is all that Argentina need to improve on, and finishing in the top eight will become a habit for this side. They should in fact be in the top four, fighting among the best but they lack determination in crucial games to lift them up.
Fix that, and blood more talent, and Los Pumas will tick off those objectives easily.
Argentinean squad: Renzo Barbier, Lucas Bellotto, Fernando Luna, Nicolas Menendez, Jose Barros Sosa, Matias Ocsaduk, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Felipe Del Mestre, Gaston Revol, German Schulz, Franco Sabato, Javier Rojas Alvarez, Santiago Foucarde.
They are the defending champs but don’t look like a team that can defend their title at this moment. Their senior players to need to step-up and take the leading role. Consistency again is lacking, which needs to be rectified quickly, or they will finish in the bottom tier of the competition. Tough ask, especially when they are not always at 100%–but again, Kenya can score from anywhere on the field.
Kenyan squad: Derick Dulo, Frank Wanyama, Dennis Ombachi, Lugonzo Ligamy, Bush Mwale, Billy Odhiambo, Eden Agero, Andrew Amonde, Nelson Oyoo, Samuel Oilech, Collins Injera, Brian Tanga.
They came close last weekend and LWOR believes this will be their breakthrough week. It’s a perfect group for them to redeem themselves in, and improve on their past outings. Their senior players have brought another level to their game, giving youngsters like Gordon Langkilde chances to shine. Fans will hope the development can trend upward in Singapore.
Samoan squad: Gordon Kangkilde, Falemiga Selesele, Alamada Motuga, Lafaele Va’a, Savelio Ropati, Daniel Kayes, Alatasi Tupou, Tomasi Alosio, Tila Mealoi, Samoa Toloa, Matty Tuatagaloa, Alex Samoa, Siaosi Asofalau.
Pool D – United States, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales
Like Samoa and Australia, LWOR believes that the American side can push for that second Sevens Series title this weekend. They have come closer in the past three rounds than ever before, and this could be it.
Stephen Tomasin and Perry Baker will be vital for them, along with Ben Pikelman. If everything gels, plus they handle the pressures of Day Two, it might be ‘all smiles’ in Singapore.
United States squad: Anthony Welmers, Ben Pikelman, Danny Barett, Matai Leuta, Mike Teo, Andrew Durutalo, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe, Stephen Tomasin, Madison Hughes, Perry Baker, Martin Iosefo, Malon Ajiiboori,
The Kiwis have been boosted with the return of Joe Webber and Lewis Ormond, and look to be one of the favored sides for Singapore. The duo come in for Tim Mikkelson and Isaac Te Tamaki. Webber adds depth in the backs with Ormond brings dimension to the forwards to compliment the rookies in the side.
Captain Scott Curry is unavailable, and his replacement is expected to be Tone Ng Shiu. The first year player shows some real promise, so combined with the experience of Webber and DJ Forbes, they will take some beating.
Kiwi squad: Iapo Iapo-Aso, Andrew Knewstub, Trael Joas, DJ Forbes, Lukarisitone Ng Shiu, Beaudein Waaka, Sam Dickson, Vilimoni Koroi, Joe Ravouvou, Regan Ware, Joe Webber, Sione Molia, Lewis Ormond,
The Celtic sides have been inconsistent in the last four rounds, and if they want a good finish in the series, they need to start here. Wales and Scotland are their worst enemies, they can turn up when they need to….but that’s not acceptable in the ever evolving game of sevens.
They round up Pool D but LWOR believes that they will finish in the bottom tier. Each has the tools, but does not utilize the weapons totally. With more emphasis on a complete package, they can work towards more Cup finals and more tournament wins.
Scotland squad: Grayson Hart, Dougie Fife, Alastair Miller, Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn, Mark Robertson, Jamie Farnadale, Joe Nayacavou, Hugh Blake, Scott Wight, James Fleming, Robbie Nairn, Sam Beattie.
Wales squad: Luke Treharne, Morgan Williams, Jared Rosser, Luke Morgan, Owen Jenkins, Billy McBride, Ethan Davies, Lloyd Evans, Owen Lane, Sam Cross, James Benjamin, Ben Roach.
2017 HSBC Singapore Sevens
Will we see another new winner? In all essence, LWOR believes we will have a new winner this weekend. Hong Kong always takes its toll on you (the humidity and effort involved) however, with depth in their squads Fiji and South Africa could face off again. New Zealand and Australia pose the biggest threat, while United States and Samoa continue to impress, and Japan have nothing to lose in wanting to escape the bottom of the table.
‘All to play for’ with South Africa just having that little edge to be honest, but Fiji will be out to create history two weeks in a row.
The HSBC Singapore Sevens tournament starts on April 16.
“Main photo credit”