In a week’s time the new Rugby World Cup 7s (RWC 7s) champs will be crowned in Moscow. They will reign as World Champs until the next RWC 7s in 2018. There was the possibility the winner would be the last RWC 7s champ ever, and then on June 13th the IRB announced that the World Cup 7s would continue and be integrated into the Olympic cycle. The tossing about of the future of this tournament is (of course) because of rugby 7s being included in the Olympics. The international 7s series has also sapped some of the importance of winning the RWC 7s. Every year you now have 9 men’s and 4 women’s international tournaments. Seldom do the same teams finish in the top 3 positions.
For the nine men’s tournaments in the 2012-13 season the final point standings were New Zealand (173), South Africa (132), & Fiji (121). South Africa finished first in 3 tournaments, and New Zealand and Fiji each won two. Samoa & England each won a tournament. What does that indicate about who would win the gold if this was the Olympic year & RWC 7s was the Olympic games? Very hard to say because the level of motivation will definitely escalate. For small countries like Fiji and Samoa where rugby could be the only sport in which they might medal and there is strong national pride in the rugby team, their level of commitment to the win could be the factor. New Zealand and South Africa would be high hurdles to get past and too often the matches can hinge on refereeing, but a Fiji vs Samoa final would be a spectacle in Moscow and Rio and serious cause to ponder Olympic Training Centers and development of the game from the South Pacific perspective … which the USA seems to be doing with Serevi Camps.
For the USA this RWC 7s is to show that they deserve a spot in Rio. Unfortunately they are in a tough pool with New Zealand, Canada, & Georgia. The Eagles’ record against NZ & Canada was pretty poor this past HSBC 7s World Series season. The Eagles faced NZ four times and lost everytime. Combined points for 41 against 79. Against Canada the Eagles were one for four with 79 points for and 84 against. Georgia is a bit of an unknown. If their 15 aside play is an indicator they will be big and hard and it can be imagined they will have a partisan crowd in Moscow.
For the US Women they remain our best hope for a medal. The final legs of the Women’s series did little to change what was written about them in March http://www.deepsouthrugby.net/rugby-sevens-7s-rio-olympics/march-gladness-or-sadness/ . They need to find a team will to win (at least akin to Canada’s) and the ability to perform with precision in crucial games, or they will be shut out of the gold, silver, or bronze in Moscow and in 3 years in Rio. In Moscow the Eagles have an easy pool and should come out to face either Australia, South Africa, or an emerging Irish side in the quarter-final. From there they will face one of their nemeses … Canada, England, or New Zealand and recent European champs Russia in the iconic Luzhnicki (sp?) Stadium with an expected huge home crowd advantage should not be dismissed.
I’ll try to Twitter from Moscow @deepsouthrugby Wheels up 6 pm EST on June 25th.