Archives for August 2012

Ottawa Aug. 26, 2012 – NACRA 7s Championship – Size Matters

On Sunday afternoon the much awaited match of the tournament ended with Canada defeating USA 26-19 to claim the championship. Both teams romped through pool and quarterfinal matches. In semifinal matches USA won 33-7 over Mexico and Canada 31-0 over Jamaica. This tournament was the venue for qualification for the 2013 7s World Cup to be held in Moscow. Both USA and Canada qualify as the top 2 teams go through. Mexico defeated Jamaica 17-12 for 3rd place.

Canada women had a try fest through all their matches having little trouble with Trinidad and Tobago in the women’s final. The USA women were not present as they qualified for the 2013 7s World Cup by their performance in the 2009 7s World Cup.

The lesson of the tournament for the USA should be ‘size matters’. I received a premonition that this would be the lesson upon arrival at Ottawa airport. Passed from the initial immigration screening to secondary screening because of a 2010 DUI conviction, I was finally granted a 3 day pass to enter Canada and a warning to not try to return for ten years. The immigration officer was very pleasant but wrestled with bending Canadian law to let me in. At one point he said – and I paraphrase slightly, ‘If you were covering hockey or with ESPN or, even better, ESPN covering hockey this would be a slam dunk.’ (Sorry for mixed metaphor but being unfamiliar with hockey I’m not sure what the equivalent of a slam dunk would be.) The point being if I had been covering a bigger sport in terms of popularity or with a bigger media organization, he would have not had to keep me waiting for 3 hours while he struggled with setting me free on Canadian soil. Likewise the much smaller USA team struggled with gaining and maintaining Canadian soil. They were pushed in scrums like they were an unwieldy scrummage machine and blown off rucks like garden furniture in hurricane force winds.

The Eagles, although well coached, struggled to maintain composure as they faced their only real competition of the tournament. Luke Hume was a standout performer throughout the tournament despite his diminutive stature. Early in the Canadian match he collided with a teammate who was taken off the pitch for stitches after Luke bounced off him to evade a couple of Canadian tacklers and score the match’s first try. The toll of tackling much bigger Canadians eroded the USA’s previous confidence and strong aggressive defense and the Canadians’ physicality in defense was too much to overcome offensively.

During a 2011 Rugby World Cup press conference the Russian coach was asked why he had almost completely replaced the squad that had qualified for the tournament with other players. His answer was ‘because they were too small for World Cup rugby. Players need to be 100 kg or more to be competitive in international rugby.’ This is also rapidly becoming the requirement at the top levels of international sevens.

USA Eagles 7s, NACRA, Ottawa, & Road to Rio 2016

As the 2012 Olympics begin  to fade in memories,  expectations for 2016 Olympics spring to life. In 2016 there will be 2 new Olympic events: golf and rugby 7s. Rugby has several forms of the game and rugby 7s is a form played with seven players on a team.  Rugby 7s is a very fast game. Games are 14 minutes, two seven minute halves.

On August 25-26th the USA will compete in the 2012 NACRA (North American & Caribbean Rugby Association) Tournament to see which 2 teams will play in the 2013 Rugby 7s World Cup. In 2015 this NACRA Tournament will be the one that will decide which team from the region will go to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. NACRA (which will be very much under the control of the International Rugby Board) might decide to have Olympic qualification based on an early summer 2016 NACRA 7s Tournament.

Regardless of if the tournament is in 2015 or 2016 the USA will need a little luck to get in. By the current plan to be one of the 12 nations to compete in rugby 7s in 2016 you will need to be one of the top 4 finishers in the 2014-2015 HSBC  Sevens World Series. This is a competition between 16 countries in 10 tournaments held throughout the world. The USA is one of the teams that competes in this competition and usually finishes around 12th. In 2011-2012  HSBC SWS the USA Eagles placed 11th. The top 4 teams in order were New Zealand, Fiji, England, and Samoa. If England, Scotland, or Wales finish in the top 4 in the 2014-15 season, Great Britain will qualify for the Olympics.

The other way to qualify will be through tournaments held in the 6 International Rugby Board  regions: Asia, Oceania, North America & Caribbean (NACRA), South America, Africa, Europe.

Currently the USA is the highest ranked 7s team in our region, but Canada is ranked very close to us and it can come down to the bounce of a ball in Ottawa in August. This year both Canada and USA should go through to the 7s World Cup … but in 2015 there will only be one team going through to the Olympics.

Other men’s teams competing  include Bermuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and St Vincent and The Grenadines.

In the Women’s tournament Canada start as favourites to go through and will face competition from the likes of Guyana, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Barbados, St Vincent and The Grenadines and the current leading Caribbean women’s team, Trinidad & Tobago. The USA Women have already qualified by their finish in the 2009 Rugby 7s World Cup that was held in Dubai.