The 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series kicked-off in style at The Sevens Stadium, with the English on fire on Day One. A day that gave us the usual high drama you come to expect from the Dubai Sevens weekend, so sit back and let Last Word On Rugby evaluate what how the weekend began.
The usual suspects all came out of the blocks as expected but the Argentinians–Yes, a bit like a broken record–they faltered once again. Not that the task was easy in Pool A mind you. And while they did put up a brave fight against Fiji, only to lose 22-19, they can only challenge for the Trophy on Day Two.
Four teams were undefeated on Day One (see below video). South Africa, Australia, Fiji and England all came out unscathed from pool play.
HIGHLIGHTS: Four teams go unbeaten in Dubai on day one of men's competition: https://t.co/z4cONSt3LM
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) December 2, 2016
Dubai Sevens: English On Fire
England came to play as they dominated the All Black Sevens in a very entertaining game to send the warning signals they meant business. They overwhelmed Samoa and Russia earlier in the day, to look a powerful side to beat this weekend.
Dan Norton (main picture) Dan Bibby, Tom Mitchell and others all contributed to a sterling team effort. Not full of individuals; so much, they combine to represent a threat across the board. They take their chances too, as when an NZ player was binned, they capitalized well.
Like the Kiwis in the women’s series, England need a redemption over the Fijians. Not only did they beat them in Dubai last season, the Great Britain side were humbled in Rio (a side filled with English players).
Late in the afternoon at The Sevens Stadium, with a huge crowd on hand, they New Zealand Women’s team were singing their redemption song. A victory to reverse the Olympic Gold medal final against Australia–can the English follow suit?
Looking at that teams progress, and others, here is your ‘LOWDOWN’ of the Dubai Sevens tournament so far.
Day One: The Lowdown
Pool A (Fiji, Argentina, Wales, Canada)
Watching Fiji is like watching the Liverpool football side in England. They never make it easy for their fans. Yesterday was no different, as they had to dug deep to win all their pool matches. The opposition had them in sixes-and-sevens but the individual brilliance of the Fijianans make them unstoppable.
As they fought their way out of danger time and time again, with some breathtaking, entertaining rugby, fit for the gods. New head coach Nacanieli Cawanibuka would be breathing a sigh of relief after they overcame Canada, and then Argentina.
— Osea Kolinisau (@oseakolinisau) December 2, 2016
Wales got their due rewards, with Sam Cross and Luke Treharne leading by example. They humbled the Pumas, wrecked havoc on Fiji to dig deep, then triumphantly overcame the Canadians.
As a result of their inconsistency, the Pumas will be in the bottom half of the draw with Canada. While still winning, it is the big encounters that need to be won–namely Fiji, and ‘big four’ side.
Pool results: Argentina 19 Wales 21 | Fiji 26 Canada 19 | Argentina 21 Canada 14 | Fiji 24 Wales 12 | Wales 31 Canada 5 | Fiji 22 Argentina 19
Pool B (South Africa, Scotland, USA, Uganda)
South Africa came out of the blocks hard, with Seabelo Senatla racking up the tries. The Neil Powell coached side are dual-favorites for day two if they stick to their game.
The Scots, continuing from their heroics in London, will be in the Cup quarters again after a brilliant start to the day. They took the Americans by surprise, with a hard-fought 14-5 victory.
Uganda will be grateful for the experience of playing against the best. On the other hand, the Americans have to learn from the American icon Kenny Rogers. ”Know when to hold them, know when to fold them”. They gambled against the Scots, and they paid the price for it.
Pool results: USA 5 Scotland 14 | South Africa 46 Uganda 0 | USA 29 Uganda 7 | South Africa 21 Scotland 5 | Scotland 35 Uganda 14 | South Africa 19 USA 17
Pool C (England, New Zealand, Samoa, Russia)
England are the team to beat. They have the firepower and the experience to win this tournament. However, even though they lost to England, don’t ever count out the All Blacks Sevens side. Scott Curry will be reminding his team of their need to do the basics first.
On a positive for New Zealand, their ‘elder statesman’ DJ Forbes claimed the record for the most Sevens Series tournaments: 80 over his 11 year career, and over 390 matches. His workman like attitude and ability to support the breakdown, makes Forbes a true team-player.
Samoa was good, but without Falemiga Selesele, they were like lost sheep looking for their guide. Hopefully, they will show up in Cape Town next week, as they have the players who can deliver. New head coach Sir Gordon Tietjens won’t join them officially until Welington, but expect messages to be issued to Stephen Beetham.
Russia could not gain their structure and while they pushed Samoa to the final minute, single tries against the Kiwis and English were not going to cause any big upsets (unlike their women’s team).
Pool Results: England 19 Samoa 7 | New Zealand 26 Russia 5 | England 38 Russia 7 | New Zealand 26 Samoa 21 | Samoa 17 Russia 15 | New Zealand 12 England 26
Pool D (Australia, Japan, France, Kenya)
Sam ‘Simba’ Myers has taken his young Aussie brigade to their first Cup quarter finals cameo. He led by example, with James Stannard to win three-from-three.
France, without Virimi Vakatawa, are like lost puppies. However, they did just enough with comeback wins to beat Japan and Kenya, to earn a showdown against Fiji. The big celebration was for Terry Bouhraoua who scored his 100th Sevens Series. Congratulations.
On the other hand, Kenya will learn by now that leaving Collins Injera and Humphery Kayange at home was a big mistake. Player issues could affect the side in 2016/17, which would be a real shame. A strong Kenya always challenges.
Pool Results: Kenya 14 France 21 | Australia 19 Japan 14 | Kenya 17 Japan 7 | Australia 28 France 0 | France 35 Japan 0 | Australia 17 Kenya 12
Your Cup Quarter-final Draws
The defending champs Fiji will take on France while England meets Scotland. In the bottom half of the cup quarter, the Kiwis meet the Blitzboks. The Aussie will meet the Welsh on the other match.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) December 2, 2016
Challenge Trophy Quarter Finals
In a change to past seasons, there is now on a Cup and Trophy final at the Dubai Sevens. This maybe a trend, as the ten leg tournament looks to define the competition and reward semi finalists with a chance to win [maximum points] or place second or third.
Argentina v Japan | Samoa v Uganda | Kenya v Canada | USA v Russia
Follow all the results and updates from the Dubai Sevens here on Last Word On Rugby, with Scott Hornell and Jovilisi Waqa
“Main photo credit”