It has been five years since the last Rugby 7s World Cup. After the 2013 World Cup in Moscow the inclusion of 7s in the 2016 Olympics left the future of the 7s World Cup in doubt. Where was it to fit in the rugby schedule? It could not be in the same year as the men or women’s 15s World Cups or in an Olympic year or in a year before or after the Olympics. The women’s 15s World Cup schedule was shifted and the 7s World Cup survived for at least one more time by sharing the same year as the FIFA Football World Cup, the most popular sporting event in the world. USA Rugby won the bid to host the 2018 version in San Francisco.
By March of 2018 USA Rugby was reportedly struggling to get out from under somewhere between a 2-4 million dollar financial setback associated with participation in the failed Rugby International Marketing fiasco (see Pat Clifton’s article http://www.rugbytoday.com/elite/rim-disaster-confirmed-all-you-need-know ). Considerable hope has been placed on the tournament as the vehicle that will recover a good bit of this. World Rugby is supposedly poised to help keep USA Rugby afloat if more disaster falls on the organization. What will happen if the tournament loses more money? The tournament seems safe with countries already considering bids for the 2022 version of the tournament. Two weeks after close to half the world watched at least part of France’s victory over Croatia, the 7s World Cup will kick-off in San Francisco. The rugby world will be watching the matches and the powers behind the World Cup and USA Rugby will have a close eye on the bottom line.
Beyond drama related to the future of the tournament and continuing viability of USA Rugby, the USA men have a not unreasonable shot at winning. They are ranked 5th in the world, but with home-field advantage and a bit of luck they could find themselves on Sunday afternoon, July 22nd, lifting the World Cup. They have speed, talent, strength, size, and arguably the best coach in 7s rugby. One possible problem is the new tournament format is detrimental to the US Eagles weakness, consistency. The entire tournament, for the first time, is knock-out. To win the tournament a team can not lose a match. Their first match on Friday night (9:27 pm PT) will be against Wales. (This assumes Wales will beat Zimbabwe.) If they beat Wales, they are already in the quarterfinals with only 3 teams between them and being world champs.
Here is my view of USA Eagles road to World Cup champions. ( Obviously I am predicting the outcome of matches that determine the Eagles next opponent. All times are local San Francisco time.)
Saturday, July 21st, 4:38 pm USA v England (match # 28)
Sunday, July 22nd, 12:40 pm USA v South Africa (match # 39)
Sunday, July 22nd, 5:49 pm USA v Fiji (match #52)
Enough dreaming of our first Rugby World Cup championship.
Below is the women’s road to becoming World Cup champs. The women’s form has been consistently inconsistent, and even a much lower ranked team like China could pull of an upset if the whole squad does not play with the intensity that team leader Alev Kelter demonstrates whenever she is on the pitch. (Just as I went to post the link to the article on Twitter, USA Rugby posted that Kelter was out of the tournament due to injury.)
Friday, July 20th, 12:34 pm USA v China
Friday, July 20th, 6:36 pm USA v Russia
Saturday, July 21st, 12:04 pm USA v New Zealand
Saturday, July 21st, 7:47 pm USA v Australia
By Tom Crosby