Oceania 7s/RWC7s Men’s Qualifiers: All Blacks Sevens Seeking Salvation

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Scott Curry of New Zealand (1) and team mates look dejected in defeat after the Men's Rugby Sevens Pool C match between New Zealand and Japan on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Deodoro Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The 2017 Oceania 7s/RWC7s Men’s Qualifiers will be the talk of the Oceania region this weekend. Played at the ANZ Stadium, which has previously hosted Super Rugby matches, it where all the action is at. The men’s and women’s tournaments are played from November 10-12, with much attention will be on the All Blacks Sevens, who are seeking salvation after disappointing recent years.

For the New Zealand team, they want to get back to the ‘glory days’ after retirements and coaching changes. But lying in front of them are the best men’s rugby sevens teams across Oceania.

Quick Tap: Origins of sevens

Australia, a gun team right now, having won three tournaments in a row. The Aussies are confident, and will be preparing for Dubai – which is only 20 days away.

Samoa and Papua New Guinea will be the underdogs this year, but the big carrot for those nations is only one remaining Oceania spot up for grabs at the Rugby World Cup Sevens, in July 2018.

That Oceania 1 qualifier will then join New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and Samoa at the RWC7s. They will also qualify for the HSBC Sevens Series qualifiers to be played in Hong Kong next year. The final Oceania 2 place will be decided after the ‘Pacific Mini Games’ tournament in December.

So every match will mean something for everyone. Be sure to follow the action wherever you are – see local service for coverage.

All Blacks Sevens Seeking Salvation

New Zealand will be seeking salvation after their disastrous 2016/17 season. The Kiwis didn’t win a tournament last season under Scott Waldrom and Tomasi Cama. However Fiji had only one win; at the Hong Kong Sevens, so they also have to prove themselves.

The All Blacks Sevens new head coach Clark Laidlaw will be using the tournament to test out his combinations. He will be relying on the senior players to show the way. His credentials speak volumes but to operate a team like New Zealand, it will take hard work. The jury is still out for him. This weekend, the Kiwis can gain salvation through a good performance.

New Zealand will need to step up. Australia are making a habit of winning. The Fiji Barbarians have been on the receiving end of the Aussies in the last three invitational tournaments. Further development of those local players will go a long way this tournament, so the All Black Sevens need to watch both shoulders in Suva.

Let’s breakdown the Pools, with your LOWDOWN.

Pool A – Fiji, American Samoa, New Caledonia

Fiji will have a walk in the park in this pool but will be conscious of their approach. Along with young debutant Elia Canakaivata, Apenisa Cakaubalavu will be one to watch.

Huge task for the boys to defend their title at home and they will fight all the way. The inclusion of New Zealand adds to the competition and you can only measure yourself against the best.

New Caledonia and American Samoa will be entertaining which will bring delight to the fans.

Fiji squad: Josua Kurinabili, Paula Dranisinukula, Api Domolailai, Kalione Nasoko, Elia Canakaivata, Apenisa Cakaubalavu, Wise Nacuqu, Jerry Tuwai, Vatmo Ravouvou Samu Bale, Alekesio Vakarorogo, Ulayasi Bituniyata
New Caledonia squad: Kevin Soko, Ismael Tuhimutu, Jason Mafutina, Kenji Mafutina, Bell Pallasso, Bryan Robson, Remi Siega, Yves Takaufauti, Yuta Wadehnana, Siwan Tuaroa, Brandon Pako, Peleko Folautanoa
American Samoa squad: Bogdaw Tuiletuga, Mallon Ve’e, Siaosi Ponefasio, Lino Milo Tofailagi Iese, Tavita Collins, Senetenari Moasavili, Lolesio Lolesio, Joseph Koroiadi, Ross Lelea Poyer, Pesamino Poyer, Belasio Julian Koroiadi, Miracle Felise Petelo

Pool B – New Zealand, Cook Islands, Nauru

Scott Curry will lead an experienced squad with a new debutant. Bailey Simmonsson will bring youth to add to the flair of the side. Tim Mikkelson and Dylan Collier will lay the foundation for Joe Ravouvou and Regan Ware to exploit.

Tone Ng Shiu, Andrew Kneewstub and Teddy Stanaway will continue their development. Joe Webber will be their go-to-man with Sione Molia.

However, the Cook Islanders can be unpredictable too. Nauru will be using this to build confidence in the coming years.

All Black Sevens squad: Scott Curry, Tim Mikkelson, Tone Ng Shiu, Teddy Stanaway, Dylan Collier, Bailey Simmonsson, Joe Ravouvou, Isaac Te Tamaki, Regan Ware, Andrew Kneewstub, Joe Webber, Sione Molia
Cook Islands squad: Matamanea Andrew Matapakia, Francis Joseph Smith, Raymond Trevor Mitchell, Sirla Barcelona Tumu Para, Teu Paerau, Stephen Vivian Marama Willis, Reece Samuel Joyce, William Raea, Junior Napara, Samuelu Leuta, James Cecil Iopu, Junior Kiria
Nauru squad: Chamrock Agir, Johhny Daglano, Famo Defanamo, German Grundler, Rocky Robroy Grundler, Jimzan Yoshi Harris, Cazalay Jeremih, Jeremiah Kam, Tama Jeremiah, Kenneth Oppenheimer, Lloyd Vunipola, Zac Tamaki

Pool C – Australia, Tonga, Solomon Islands

Australia has named a relatively young unknown development side for the Oceania Sevens. Seven players will be debuting for the Aussies who have opted to rest their senior players. Jeral Skelton, Henry Clunies-Ross, Matthew Hood, Matthew McTaggart, Brodie Leber, Daniel Martine together with Nicholas Price and Lachlan Miller will all be debuting.

Brandon Quinn and Dylan Pietsch will spearhead their campaign. Matt Hood and captain Matt McTaggart will also be threatening with Thomas Connor. However, keep an eye on Jeral Skelton as he will be their ‘secret weapon’

Tonga has a chance here to challenge the Pukpuks for that Oceania 1 qualifying spot to the World meet, and HSBC Sevens Series qualifiers in Hong Kong. Sione Fonua will have to inspire his team mates from the get-go to give their all. They can look no further then the Mate Ma’a Tonga Rugby League side for inspiration.

Solomon Islands has roped in former Flying Fijians coach Ili Tabua as their assistant coach who will be energetic and relentless. If the Tongans and Aussies don’t give them due respect, they can surprise us all.

Australia squad: Jeral Skelton, Henry Clunies-Ross, Sam Croke, Brandon Quinn, Matthew Hood, Matthew McTaggart, Dylan Pietsch, Thomas Connor, Brodie Leber, Daniel Martine, Nicholas Price, Lachlan Miller
Tonga squad: Anthony Amato, Taniela Samita, Unalolo Kaloni, Matu Tomasi Tevi, Motekilai Faamani, Samiu Muna, Sosaia Fine Tokai, Tevita Tai, Paula Folau, Alefosio Vahe, Siaosi Manufakai, Sione Fonua
Solomon Islands squad: Mike Nasiu, Roman Tongaka, Nomson Sade, Chris Saru, Mike Sogokiu, Felix Solomon, Timo Sanga, Toni Taupongi, Romi Soumatangi, Eddie Moe’ava, Simon Fali’imae, Jonathan Kaitu’u

Pool D – Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tuvalu

Manu Samoa Sevens have recalled some big names in Tulolo Tulolo and Faatua Otto to help spearhead their campaign. Tila Mealoi, Tom Iosefo, Laaloi Leilua add depth to the side. Alatasi Tupou is the kingpin, if he excels they will get behind him.

Papua New Guinea will have Wesley Vaili and Arthur Clement to lead them into winning that qualification spot. Tuvalu has some Fiji boys but how they deliver on the field will determine their progress. Vanuatu will be the underdogs in this pool.

Samoa squad: Gordon Langkilde, Tofatuimoana Solia, Lester Sefo, Tulolo Tulolo, David Afamasaga, Alatasi Tupou, Faatua Otto, Neria Fomai, Laaloi Leilua, Tom Iosefo, Paulo Scanlan, Tila Mealoi
Papua New Guinea squad: Henry Kalua, Hima Alu, Eugene Tokavai, Dean Manaele, Isaac Aquilla, Wesley Vaili, Arthur Clement, Gairo Gadana, Patrick Tatut, Freddy Roua, William Tirang, Samuel Malambes
Vanuatu squad: Taputu Kalpukai, Aquila Kalsakau, Malau Manarato, Claude Raymond, Ruben Rory, Colline Taga, Max Taleo, Stephane Tete, James Wilfred, Edond William, William Wily, Keleto Doloka, Antoine Sablan
Tuvalu squad: Saamu Bruce, Lufuka Simeti, Volau Lutelu, Falegai Feaga, Jotame Tupoulewa, Binesh Taliu, Vaiuli Nukualofa, Talatawa Iesi, Nafa Eitini, Simeon Taasi, Kamaitia Simon, Tili Sanaila

Can the Kiwis break Fijian hearts at home?

On paper they can, with all their star players. Although, considering that Fiji are are still building, they will be harder to beat at home. The crowds support will help the local team, so Kiwi game breakers like Sione Molia and Joe Webber should be wary of the Fijian rookies.

However, don’t count out the Aussies who have made winning contagious. If any of those big three face each other, watch for the fireworks to fly!

In the other matches, the PNG Pukpuks will be hard to beat for that Oceania 1 qualifying spot. No doubt, Manu Samoa and Tonga will try their hardest this weekend.

And that is all that any fan can expect, in the cut-throat game of rugby sevens.

Stay Tuned to LWOR for the full LOWDOWN of the Oceania Sevens.


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