The 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series begins this weekend in Dubai. The Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens is from December 2-3 at wonderful The Sevens Stadium.
16 teams are competing in this, the opening leg of the ten tournament season. For 2016, Uganda are the invitational side in the Men’s competition [South Africa were invited to compete in the Women’s tournament that runs alongside, from December 1-2].
Teams are divided into four pools for the Dubai Sevens, with Olympic champions Fiji in Pool A. They are joined by the unpredictable and feisty Argentinians, Wales and Canada.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 30, 2016
Dubai Sevens: Fiji Underdogs in Pool A
The Fijians are underdogs in Dubai–as they have a new look side. They are also playing without Ben Ryan [resigned] and will be coached by Nacanieli Cawanibuka. Considering those factors, Argentina are favorites in this pool, with Wales and Canada picked to create upsets.
Pool A (Fiji, Argentina, Wales, Canada)
Returning players mixed with new blood in Fiji side
The defending series and Dubai Sevens champions have brought with them six Olympic Gold medal winners. Cawanibuka has recalled two former players, in Joeli Lutumailagi as well as Waisea Nacuqu. In addition, they have named two new debutantes in Setareki Bituniyata and Kilione Nasoko.
The Fijians always look good on paper, as they have the natural talent for the game. The transition from the Ryan led side, to Cawanibuka [until Gareth Barber takes over in January] has started well. Osea Kolinisau will lead the side, with Samisoni Viriviri together with Jasa Veremalua as on-field leaders.
Their win at the Oceania Sevens was vital for the transition, as it helped in identifying areas they needed to work on. The returning senior players and Olympians will bring with them that technical know-how of the game. However, the real area to work on will come from the ‘new kids on the block’ Bituniyata and Nasoko. They appear to have the X-factor that Simon Cowell is always looking for.
Equally important to their success, is the thrust that Nemani Nagusa brings the side. The squad of 14 will be cut to 12 before day one.
Fijian squad: Nemani Nagusa, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Emosi Mulevoro, Jasa Veremalua, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Setareki Bituniyata, Osea Kolinisau, Waisea Nacuqu, Jerry Tuwai, Kitione Taliga, Kalione Nasoko, Joeli Lutumailagi, Samisoni Viriviri, Josua Vici.
Argentina Hoping To Turn the Tables
The Santiago Gomez Cora coached team will carry with them a favorite tag, even while they have wounds that need to heal from Rio. They were humbled at the Olympics by the Fijians, and redemption will be on their minds. By the same token, they are building for the Tokyo Olympic Games, like all other sides are but must be the aggressor if they have dreams of matching Fiji.
They have picked some familiar names, in Fernando Luna, Gaston Revol and Franco Sabato. Furthermore, they have also included German Schulz and Secundo Tuculet, together with Bautista Delguy.
However, they will be without Bautista Ezcuerra, Axel Muller and playmaker Nicolas Bruzonne. It’s a transition period and they are busy trying out new combinations. How they begin, will determine if Los Pumas reach the Cup knockout rounds.
Los Pumas Squad: Santiago Alvarez, Renzo Barbier, Jose Barros Sosa, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Bautista Delguy, Fernando Luna, Nicolas Menendez, Domingo Miotti, Matias Osadczuk, Gaston Revol, Franco Sabato, German Schulz, Secundo Tuculet.
Wales Excited at 2016/17 Prospects
Wales Head Coach Gareth Williams has named four new caps for the desert city tournament: Stef Andrews, Matthew Owen, Jared Rosser and Tom Williams.
However, Sam Cross who had an outstanding season last year, returns with Luke Treharne. Treharne missed the Rio trip with Team GB through injury. Both men will be leading the side as co-captains. On the other hand, they will be missing Luke Morgan and James Davies.
”We are excited with the 12 players selected for Dubai,” said Williams on worldrugby.com
”Seven core players are included, and their knowledge of the Sevens Series will be invaluable beside the four regional players and one Principality Premiership player joining them.”
Welsh Scarlets squad: Stef Andrews, Sam Cross, Ethan Davies, Lloyd Evans, Owen Jenkins, Matthew Owen, Ben Roach, Jared Rosser, Adam Thomas, Luke Treharne, Morgan Williams, Tom Williams.
Canada Hopeful with McGrath
Damian McGrath is going all out in his first series tournament with his new team. He has named 11 senior players, with two new players. Some familiar names are missing, but he has the core of the team to help him rebuild Canada.
Phil Mack and Nanyak Dala are hard to replace, in addition to Adam Cjenovic along with Sean Duke. Nevertheless, he still has the ever fighting John Moonlight, who epitomizes the Canadian spirit in the field. It will be a tough battle for the North Americans but their English coach is hopeful. On the other hand building new combination always take time.
“I’ve gone with experience on this first one, because I’ve had a little time with the players. I’m leaning on previous experience. We’ve lost several older campaigners so we’ve really relied on the bulk on last years’s squad who are available plus a few significant newcomers such as Caleb Jordan.” McGrath on worldrugby.com.
Maple Leafs squad: Phil Berna, Justin Douglas, Mike Fualeifau, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones, Caleb Jordan, Pat Kay, Karsten Leitner, Luke McCloskey, John Moonlight, Matt Mullins, Liam Underwood, Adam Zaruba.
Who Will take Pool A?
The battle will be between the Fijians and Los Pumas. If the Fijians are rattled from the get go, all other teams have a chance. The instruction will be ‘Don’t let the islanders settle into their game’ because if you do, they will reign in the end.
Canada and Wales will aim for a good start to the season, and reaching the quarters will be their ultimate goal. The Fijians should likely make it through. If that is unbeaten, then the Pumas and Canadians will battle it out for second spot.
Pool B (South Africa, Scotland, USA, Uganda)
South Africa will lead out their 2016/17 campaign, facing the invitational Ugandan team, beside the always challenging Scottish side. Their toughest battle will come against the always hard to beat Team USA.
Speed will be abound in that match-up. Carlin Isles facing World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla. While individual contests can often be overshadowed by the result, in 2016/17, the fight for top tryscorer will be of keen interest to LWOR readers.
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) November 30, 2016
Pool C (England, New Zealand, Samoa, Russia)
The 2015 Dubai runners-up England lead Pool C, as they are the more settled side. The Kiwis re-join the series with interim coaches, so this is a litmus test. With DJ Forbes now the leading player in all sevens (with 80+ tournaments) his experience will be needed dearly.
HSBC Paris Sevens champions Samoa and developing nation Russia complete the pool, which might the toughest of all. If England can go unbeaten, they may have the side to challenge in the knockout stages.
Pool D (France, Australia, Kenya, Japan)
Across in pool D, the desire to reach the Cup playoffs should be motivation enough. While Japan are the emerging nation, with success over the last 12 months, it will raise their hopes and standards. That will also apply to France–their XV’s team performed admirably against the All Blacks. and will look to mirror that form.
The two most favoured sides should be Australia and Kenya. The latter have overcome player disquiet to arrive in Dubai. That may play into the hands of the Aussies. They must be wary of being over confident.
The Lowdown – Day One
Like every team, they must first get through Day One. And that is where the tournament is won or lost [literally]. Any team can trip up, as seen in 2015. The experiences of previous legs of the Sevens Series will count for plenty, so the older heads will be relied on to show their worth.
The Dubai Sevens Weekend has started with the Women playing today. That will lead in well for the Men to run out on Friday morning. Pools A-D will all be tough. Fiji may well be the title holders, but it all begins in earnest yet again.
Good luck to all sides.
Follow All the results and updates from the Dubai Sevens here on LWOR with Scott Hornell and Jovilisi Waqa.
“Main photo credit”