It is just the second time the 23,600-capacity stadium has hosted the event, after the venue of the New Zealand round was moved from Wellington in 2018.
After the first two rounds in Dubai and Cape Town, USA top the standings; one point clear of hosts New Zealand and 3 points ahead of Fiji.
England are hanging onto the coattails of the leaders, 8 points adrift of the top.
With 16 teams contesting in 45 matches across just two days, here is a quick preview of each pool.
Fiji will be without key men Vatemo Ravouvou and
Australia are perhaps the best equipped side to challenge Fiji for top spot in Pool A, with speedster John Porch starring yet again this series. His total of 98 points puts him at the top individual standings, 13 points clear of his nearest challenger.
Argentina, who won the Challenge Trophy in Cape Town with a resounding win over Samoa, may be the dark horses of this particular group. The South American side stunned South Africa in Dubai to reach the quarter-finals, and will be hoping to reach the Cup competition for the second time this series.
Current series leaders USA will be the team to beat in Pool B, as ‘The Eagles’ look to secure some silverware, following two cup final losses. Head coach Mike Friday told USA Rugby; “We need to stay focused, show humility and work hard on our own game individually and collectively as we lost two finals due to mistakes which were more than avoidable”.
England will meet USA in their final pool match, in a repeat of the Cape Town quarter-final that saw the latter progress in a hard-fought 19-12 victory. Should England progress from Pool B into the Cup competition, they will be guaranteed to face a team lower than them in the current standings. With this in mind, a 4th place finish is well within reach, especially if England want to challenge for the series title this season.
Samoa and Tonga will as usual provide a physical test for the two big boys in Pool B. Samoa have twice reached the Challenge Trophy final, while Tonga return to the world stage for the next three tournaments, replacing Zimbabwe in Hamilton
South Africa are undoubtedly the favourites for Pool C, and will be boosted by the return of the experienced Chris Dry. Dry has made over 300 appearances for the sevens side, but has missed over a year of rugby with a knee injury. The ‘Blitzboks’ will hope Dry can help them build on a third-placed finish last round.
A much-improved Scotland side have reached the semi-finals in both of the previous tournaments, and will more than likely be competing with France for the second Cup spot in the pool. France are yet to reach the Cup quarter-finals this year.
However, Kenya head coach Paul Murunga is optimistic his side can make an impact on the tournament, despite their recent troubles. A contractual row between the KRU and senior squad members has meant Murunga has been forced to rely on young, inexperienced players.
“We have already exposed five rookies in the first two legs and hopefully, we shall have more coming in to ensure there is adequate competition for places,” Murunga said.
“In Sevens it is possible to beat any team. It all depends on your level of preparedness,” he said.
Hosts New Zealand have a number of players returning from unavailability, with Tim Mikkelson back in the squad after the birth of his first child, and Joe Ravouvou part of the ‘All Blacks’ setup for the first time since gaining New Zealand citizenship. In front of a home crowd, they will be aiming for nothing less a win, and to overhaul USA at the top of the standings.
Spain will provide New Zealand with a worthy challenge in Pool D, and the home nation will have to keep a close eye on talisman Francisco Hernandez. Hernandez has racked up 63 points so far this campaign; a notable achievement in a largely inconsistent Spanish side.
Japan and Canada make up the pool, who are two sides that still have much to prove on the world stage. The last time these two sides met in Dubai, Canada ran out 27-7 winners in an assured display.
Final Team Announced for RugbyX Competition
The final team to compete in the first ever RugbyX tournament has been confirmed and it will make things even more interesting
The Barbarians have been confirmed as the final team to compete at this year’s first ever RugbyX event in the O2 in London on October 29th.
Speaking on the Barbarians inclusion Technical Director of RugbyX Ben Ryan believes that the sport will provide fans with a brilliant new way to support their country.
“RugbyX is bringing world leading international Sevens rugby teams into Europe’s number one entertainment destination – The O2 arena – for an adapted form of the game we love. RugbyX will provide new and existing fans with an opportunity to support their national team in a brand new rugby environment,” he said.
He went on to say that the Baa Baas have all the qualities within their side that the tournament needs and thinks they are in with a huge chance of winning the competition.
“At RugbyX we are looking to instil some key principles with this new format of the game which consist of teamwork, participation and inclusion. These values are the fundamentals of the Barbarians’ existence so to have them participate at RugbyX is just brilliant. Additionally, the wealth of experience and talent that the Barbarians have to select from will make them one of the strongest competitors at The O2 in October,” he added.
Barbarians Chairman John Spencer is delighted that his side now have another platform to perform on.
“Since our foundation in 1890, the Barbarians have been committed to combining the best of attacking rugby with the traditions of enjoyment and sportsmanship for which our club and our sport is famous throughout the world. We are delighted to bring those traditions to this most innovative format of rugby at The O2 arena in London. We have had success in the Sevens game previously, with wins at the Hong Kong Sevens and Middlesex Sevens amongst the Barbarians past honours. We look forward to facing the world’s leading international sevens teams in this new fast-paced, five vs. five format of the game we love,” he said.
The new brand of rugby will use all the same rules as rugby union in terms of foul play and breakdown penalties. However, there will only be 5 players per team with each match lasting only 10 minutes with no half-time.
As well as that there are no line-outs only quick-throws which are taken by a substitute from the team in possession and there are no conversions.
The plan is that this will create a new faster brand of rugby which will become appealing to fans across the world.
Can Isles Be Stopped?!
We all know how good Carlin Isles is and he proved it this season but does he finally have competition?
Carlin Isles secured the Sevens Series top try-scorer accolade with 52 tries in the series but there could be a challenger for him next season.
After Australia signed sprinter Trae Williams for next season people wondered if he would overtake Isles as the fastest rugby player on the planet, however, Isles believes he is still faster, but could Williams potentially score more tries than the American?
Since Isle’s move from track to the pitch he has been almost unstoppable with ball in hand as he runs rings around the opposition but new-kid on the block Williams will make the switch with a background in rugby already under his belt.
Isles has already shown a reluctance to give up his crown of being the fastest player around but he may have another title to worry about now. Isles and the US finished second in this series and will hope to continue their impressive form in the sport and claim a series win soon.
Whatever happens it will be some clash to see the two speedsters compete for everything next time around.
Olympic Gold-Medal Winning Coach Isn’t Dead!
An Olympic gold-winning coach was reported to have died last night however; it appears as though this is not the case
Rugby Sevens coach Ben Ryan has taken to social media to clarify that he was in fact alive after a story broke claiming he had died.
Ryan, who lead Fiji to Olympic gold in the 2016 Rio games, was reported to have been run over by a Honda Civic in Toronto, later passing away in hospital. However, the 47-year-old isn’t even in the city let alone dead.
This is not the first time that Ryan has been subject to a fake news story regarding his apparent death as he was previously “killed in relation to a drug trafficking arrest”. Which wasn’t true either funnily enough.
Ryan took to Twitter to clarify everything and had a joke about the situation.
“Second time I’ve died via a fake news story. At least it isn’t the drug trafficking arrest the last one talked about. I’m nowhere Toronto though hear it’s a great spot, as long as you aren’t around the out of control Honda Civics,” he said.
This is the second time in a couple of weeks that a rugby star has apparently been killed by a Honda Civic in Toronto, as former Saracens star Jacques Burger was supposedly hit too.
Once again this wasn’t the case and Burger had a laugh at the latest victim of the Honda Civic.
“That Honda Civic is on a killing spree @benjaminryan,” he said.
Ryan is currently doing well with his book ‘Sevens Heaven’ being named both Sports Book of the Year and Heineken Rugby Book of the Year at the inaugural Telegraph Sports Book Awards.
While in the limelight for his book he is also on a mission to promote RugbyX, a new indoor version of rugby union with only five players per team.
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