It is the third round of the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series and the Sydney Sevens (7s) tournament is ready to go. The women’s competition begins today, with the men’s competition starting later this afternoon, with the HSBC Sydney 7s Pool A one to watch.
16 nations will compete at the Allianz Stadium from January 26-28. South Africa will defend their title, with Papua New Guinea the invitational side.
Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa ‘battle it out’ in Pool A, along with Russia. Pool C has South Africa, England, Spain and PNG. Argentina leads Pool B with France, Wales and Kenya. Hosts Australia heads Pool D with United States, Canada and Scotland.
Plenty at stake at the popular three day tournament. Placings for the Rugby World Cup Sevens will be determined, with all-important series points up for grab.
HSBC Sydney 7s Pool A: Fiji, NZ and Samoa showdown
This is likely the ‘Pool of Death’ at the Sydney 7s, and the Oceania giants will leave no stone un-turned. It will be the first time the Kiwis have met the Fijians this season. They last met in November, at the Oceania Sevens where the Kiwi development side were humbled by Fiji.
The Kiwis lead the World Series after winning in Cape Town. However, the Samoans and Fijians will try to get their campaign back on track. It will be mouth-watering watching them go head to head.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) January 24, 2018
In form favourites – New Zealand
Counties-Manukau star Etene Nanai-Seturo will be debuting for the Kiwis in Sydney. He could be joined in the starting seven by Caleb Clarke; son of former Auckland, Blues and All Blacks midfielder Eroni Clarke. Clarke has been named as the 13th player, and may only play in certain matches but brings more excitement to the NZ side.
After their successful outing in the opening rounds, the Kiwis have gone for an experienced hand for some direction. Coach Clark Laidlaw has recalled Luke Masirewa, who last appeared for the Kiwis in 2013.
Naming a very formidable side, the inclusion of these three Fijians could help the Kiwis ‘light the fire’ at the Allianz Stadium. Kurt Baker adds his flair, with Andrew Kneewstub and (see main picture) Vilimoni Koroi, the All Blacks Sevens playmakers. Watch Kneewstub grow into his role, this weekend and then in Hamilton in early February.
Fresh @nz7s faces for @Sydney7s :
1. Scott Curry
2. Tim Mikkelson
3. Teddy Stanaway
4. Joe Ravouvou
5. Luke Masirewa
6. Vilimoni Koroi
7. Sam Dickson
8. Andrew Knewstubb
9. Regan Ware
10. Kurt Baker
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo*
12. Sione Molia
13. Caleb Clarke (sub) pic.twitter.com/jAQR8MM5xE
— IG: blitzbokke7s (@BlitzBokke) January 24, 2018
Fiji – Former champions must get Series ‘back on track’
The Fijians have named three new players for Sydney, as they chase their first title of 2017/18. Apete Daveta and Vasikali Mudu featured prominently for the Fijian Drua in the NRC last season. On the other hand, Army’s Alosio Naduva has been knocking on selectors door for the past three season.
While the mix of new and established players can be a step in the right direction, it will be the Fijians who will be out to get their Series campaign ‘back on track’. They have the arsenal, now with speed and power. Keep an eye on Sevuloni Mocenacagi and the new boys.
Fiji’s clash with Russia and Samoa must be secured, but the ‘showdown’ with New Zealand will determine which side of the draw they face on Sunday. Meet their high standards, and they might be in a better position in HSBC Sydney 7s Pool A.
Fijian squad: Mesulame Kunavula, Kalione Nasoko, Vasikali Mudu, Jasa Veremalua, Paula Dranisinukula, Josua Vakurinabili, Apete Daveta, Jerry Tuwai, Waisea Nacuqu, Alosio Naduva, Amenoni Nasilasila, Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Eroni Sau.
Note: Fiji have officially launched their bid to be a host country on the HSBC world series circuit. It is an aspirational concept, and has the full backing of legend, Waisale Serevi.
— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) January 17, 2018
Samoa – ready to ‘Test their Metal’
Alatasi Tupou and Falemiga Selesele will spearhead their campaign in Sydney. Four players will be missing; notably Samoa Toloa who is out for 4-6 months with injury. Considering that, Samoa will still want to ‘test their metal’ against the Oceania giants.
It will be interesting how they fair, as on their best day they can beat both of the two giants. On the other hand, Russia cannot be underestimated, so the pool stages are still primary to all sides success.
Samoa 7s team for the @WorldRugby7s #Sydney7s Samoa is in Pool A with New Zealand, Fiji & Russia. Tournament favourites A Motuga, S Nonu & J Ale have been rested for other legs. S Toloa out for at least 4-6 months #GoTheManu pic.twitter.com/I4l1fsQYhU
— Go the Manu (@gothemanu2011) January 22, 2018
Russia – outsiders in Pool of Death
They will be outsiders in this Pool of Death, but don’t count them out. New Zealand have done this in the past, and will not want to slip-up while trying to negotiate the Russian Bears.
They can be very physical at the breakdown. Three new caps have been named, with the experienced Ilya Babaev. If they can be patient and avoid handling errors, then Russia are a threat.
— Rugby Union Russia (@russiarugby) January 19, 2018
Sydney 7s: Can New Zealand be stopped early?
The Kiwis have never played in the lower tier of the HSBC Sevens Series. Can Fiji and Samoa create history by humbling them? The onus is on the island boys–the ones playing against them — as well as the players that will be wearing All Black.
It certainly will be a riveting Pool to watch, within a competition including the best of the best from the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series.
Don’t miss the action from Pool A, as it goes down to the wire. New Zealand and Fiji will be favorites however, don’t count out the Samoans!
Follow this weekends action, with daily reports and all the outcomes from the HSBC Sydney 7s tournament, on Last Word on Rugby.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images