Can the resurrection of Aussie rugby sevens continue? That was be the big question, echoing in the minds of rugby pundits as the Aussies claimed a historic double at the Allianz Stadium. With the fourth leg of the HSBC Sevens Series is in New Zealand this weekend, could the Aussies claim their back-to-back tournament wins at the Hamilton 7s?
The men’s Australian side walloped South Africa in a one-sided affair in the final of the HSBC Sydney 7s – 29-0. A huge effort, it was their first title in six years; and 16 years after they last won at home. Kudos was deserved, in the way they did it too…. humbling the Kiwis and Blitzboks along the way.
In the women’s final earlier on that afternoon, again it was the Aussies girls that dominated their opposition. They kept the defending World champions New Zealand scoreless, 31-0. Their try line wasn’t crossed in their six games, another record.
With those big score lines and, considering the average age in both sides, it leaves you pondering ‘could this be the beginning of better times for Aussie Rugby?’.
The @Aussie7s men aren't resting on their laurels, on the move fresh off breaking their title drought in Sydney on Sunday.
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) January 30, 2018
Australia heads Pool A in Hamilton with Fiji,Wales and Spain. World Series leader South Africa leads Pool B, with England, Russia and the Oceania regional qualifier Papua New Guinea.
Hosts New Zealand leads Pool C with France, Argentina and Scotland. United States rounds of Pool D with Canada, Samoa and Kenya.
Can the resurrection of Aussie Rugby continue?
The Australian Rugby sides had been struggling to get back to their usual best in the international arena. From the Wallabies to the Wallaroos, to the Super Rugby franchises. However, the double victory by their sevens teams could be just what the nations needs to reignite their passion for the game.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for the sevens sides though, who last tasted victory in Tokyo back in 2012. Credit to local sevens tournament organizers like the Hottest 7s and CC7s, and efforts from Rugby Australia like the Viva 7s national program. Those efforts, together with Andy Friend have helped in molding the players to be where they are, achieving such a huge result on Sunday.
They did it by becoming impenetrable. The women especially, but the Aussie men show that desperate defence can make it tough for even the best [Blitzboks]. Looking at the main picture, Jerry Tuwai is looking to out pace the Aussie chasers but, on most occasions men like Lachlan Anderson caught their targets.
This is the time for the Aussies to step-up and be counted. They have a history of being inconsistent, but with a fit–again Lewis Holland leading the side ‘anything can happen’.
Hamilton 7s: The LOWDOWN
Its the inaugural HSBC New Zealand Sevens this weekend in Waikato, New Zealand. Fiji won the first-ever Wellington Sevens in 2000, and the proud sevens nation will be out to do so again. Can they ruin the Kiwi party? or could England or Argentina jump up the standings? Follow all the results on Last Word on Rugby’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Pool A – Fiji, Wales, Spain and Australia
After their emphatic victory in Sydney, the Aussies have rested Jesse Parahi who was instrumental at the breakdown. Parahi is rested after playing in two consecutive weeks. However, core of the team from Sunday remain to chase another title.
1. Charlie Taylor
2. Tom Connor
3. Sam Myers
4. Tom Lucas
5. @chuckystannard (c)
6. John Porch
7. Tim Anstee
8. Sam Croke
9. Dylan Pietsch
10. Ben O’Donnell
11. Maurice Longbottom
12. Lachie Anderson
13th man. Matt Hood pic.twitter.com/WIBoUNBrL4
— 7s in South Africa (@BlitzBokke) February 1, 2018
Last weekends performance was flawless and this week, Aussie 7s will try to go one further. Ben O’Donnell, Lewis Holland together with James Stannard and Lachie Anderson will be key players in the side.
Vatemo Ravouvou and Apenisa Cakaubalavu have been roped in, to cover for injuries to Apete Daveta and Wise Nacuqu. Ravouvou will key in the kickoff area, where they were caught napping last week by the United States and Kiwi attacks.
The Fijians have a good side but they need to execute perfectly, and ‘defend for their lives’ under pressure. Josua Vakurunaibuli, Eroni Sau and Amenoni Nasilasila will be vital. On the other hand, captain Jerry Tuwai and Jasa Veremalua need to step-up (to be brutally honest) to guide the young boys.
As well, Wales and Spain both need consistency. Game management is lacking for each, and they need to play right up till the last minute.
Pool B – Russia, Papua New Guinea, England and South Africa
South Africa and England are both wounded, and they will be out to redeem themselves. Both have depth in the sides, deep enough to win games on their credit and experience. More than enough to win tournaments–but some believe the unpredictable nature is out of character.
Each have goals aside from the Sevens Series. The Commonwealth Games might be an obvious distraction, but the advice from our resident Sevens Guru, Jovilisi Waqa is “stick to your key role. And go hard”.
MY SEVENS JOURNEY 🛤
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 31, 2018
Russia and Papua New Guinea continue to grow as they feature more in the series. Much to learn, and they can upset teams if they put it all together. Vladislav Lazarenko and Ilya Babaev continue to shine for Russia, as is William Tirang of PNG.
Canada and United States have a habit of ‘waking up’ in the second half of the World Series. They will be ruthless when it comes to the two North American legs – Las Vegas and Canada -but the sides consistency will be key to success here at the Hamilton 7s.
Canada should be credited, claiming a good end to the weekend, with only eight fit men in the roster. Their fitness will be tested, as will the speed and stamina of Team USA, considering they have lost Madison Hughes.
INJURY UPDATE: Stephen Tomasin and Madison Hughes to miss Hamilton with respective knee injuries. Reserve Nick Boyer will travel to New Zealand.
— USA Rugby (@USARugby) January 28, 2018
However, Samoa and Kenya can ‘turn up’ on their day and create massive upsets. Playing in New Zealand for them, it is like playing at home for the Samoans. Onus on the island boys in blue to step up and be recognized.
For Kenya, they have terrific support and coach Innocent Simiyu said, “We have a tough pool but believe we have done our homework well and trust the players will play with pride and impress us all”. If they can adjust to the cooler climate of New Zealand, that will be the key for the Shujaa.
Could Fiji win another maiden Kiwi title?
Nothing excites Fijians then winning on Kiwi soil.They will be out to grab yet another win here, but another ‘maiden title’ at the Hamilton 7s. They won their first NZ title in Wellington back in 2000, with players like Bill Satala, Waisale Serevi and Fili Delasau.
Back in the ‘Sevens heyday’ New Zealand had players like Eric Rush, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Karl Te Nana and Mils Muliaina. At that time, it was an epic final to remember.
That was then, this Now – Hamilton 7s
After the demise of the Westpac Stadium crowds, NZ Rugby will be pleased that the SOLD OUT signs are up at Waikato Stadium. The crowds should be receptive to ‘rugby first’. Having a good time obviously, and the entertainment factor will be a big component if the weekend sets new standards.
For all the 16 teams here in Hamilton, they want to provide the excitement on the field. That is where the tussle to reach Day Two will be the true test.
South Africa will be out for payback, and so will the English. However, the Aussies can claim another title in the confident mood the boys will be in. Although, don’t count out the North American sides (true underdogs). And….there are the local hosts, who are 12 times World Series champions. So it is all on!!
Verdict from LWOR staff is; expect some upsets, with an all-Oceania final.
“Main photo credit”
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