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Sevens

HSBC Sevens World Series returns to New Zealand

Just 5 days until the third round of the series begins in Hamilton

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Written by Oliver Green
Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

On January 26th, the next round of the Sevens World Series will commence at the FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.

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.

Pool A

Fiji will be without key men Vatemo Ravouvou and Amenoni Nasilasila after the FRU confirmed they will not be involved in the Hamilton or Sydney legs of the competition, amid off-the-field disciplinary issues. Despite this, Fiji will be looking to replicate their win in Hamilton one year ago, and bolster their position at the top of the standings.

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.

Wales make up Pool A, and have included 3 uncapped players in their playing squad, as they look to improve on a disappointing 14h place finish last time out in South Africa.

Pool B

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

Pool C

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. 

Pool D

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.

Sevens

Can Isles Be Stopped?!

We all know how good Carlin Isles is and he proved it this season but does he finally have competition?

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(Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for Singapore Sports Hub)

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.

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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

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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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Sevens

World Rugby Sevens Series: Fiji go top with victory in penultimate round in London

An overview of all the action from the London round of the World Sevens Series

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Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Fiji went two points clear of USA at the summit of the World Rugby Sevens standings, after winning in London for the second consecutive year.

The 3-time sevens world champions dismantled Australia with a runaway 43-7 victory in the final at Twickenham.

USA overcame France 31-14 in the bronze final to remain in touching distance of Fiji heading into the final round in Paris on June 1st.

New Zealand and South Africa secured their top-four places and Olympic qualification, meaning they will join Fiji and the USA at Tokyo 2020.

New Zealand lost 19-14 to France in their cup quarter-final, but beat South Africa and Ireland to claim 5th place.

South Africa’s loss to the All Blacks condemned a disastrous second day; the ‘Blitzboks’ were beaten by Australia 29-22 in the cup quarter-finals before their failure in the 5th place semi-final.

The South African’s poor display offered England a slim chance of automatic Olympic qualification, but they were beaten 24-19 by Samoa in the challenge quarter-final.

A 40-21 victory against Spain in the 13th place semi-final gave the home crowd a brief lift, but a 29-14 loss to Japan in the final capped a disappointing showing.

There is the reprieve of a European qualifying tournament in July for England, which offers them a second chance of securing Great Britain a place at Tokyo 2020.

Wales edged closer to a top 14 finish in the series with a vital 17-0 victory over fellow relegation candidates Japan.

The team that finishes 15th – the lowest core team – will be relegated for 2019-20.

Richie Pugh’s side are currently 13th in the standings, and opened up a three point gap over nearest challengers Kenya.

“We’ve picked up the most points out of all the bottom three teams and the performances within those results have given us a lot to be please about,” Pugh said.

Elsewhere, Samoa beat Scotland 26-17 in the Challenge final to stay in touch with 5th placed Australia.

Scotland had overcame Kenya (29-21) and Wales (33-7) in the previous rounds.

Ireland arguably pulled off the shock of the tournament on first day, beating hosts England 21-17 in Pool C.

Ireland, who will become a core team next year, went on to reach the 5th place play-off, eventually losing to New Zealand 35-14.

The series now heads to the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris, with all attentions on the top of the table, as the USA will look to deny Fiji a third title in five years.

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