Fiji will defend it’s Singapore Sevens title after a decade when the Tournaments kicks off at the beautiful National Stadium in Singapore from the 16-17th of April. The tournament will host Round 8 of this years HSBC Sevens Series. Fiji last won here in 2006 when they defeated England 40-21 in the final before the tournament was sadly cancelled by the [then] IRB (now World Rugby) Back on the circuit, the celebrations will be epic, if the Asian love of fireworks is anything to go by.
Fiji will aim to back-up last weeks Hong Kong title but without three of it’s superstars. Liam Messam now leads a young Kiwi brigade, James Rodwell of England celebrates his 69th consecutive tournament, Chris Dry back for South Africa and Josh Holmes returns for the Aussie Thunderbolts. Plenty to discuss, so Last Word On Sports looks forward to this weekend.
Singapore Sevens: The LOWDOWN
Pool A (Fiji, England, Samoa, Portugal)
Fiji will try to go back-to-back for the first time here in Singapore but will have to rely on three new players, who join the team this week after they lost Savenaca Rawaca to injury. On the sidelines, he is joined by Pio Tuwai and Isake ‘ICE’ Katonibau who are being rested by coach Ben Ryan, as he tries to save the best for the Rio Olympics. Emosi Mulevoro, Nemani Naqusa and Alivereti Veitokani come in for the injured trio.
As competition for the final rounds heats up, players know that every opportunity counts especially now as Europe based players will be available to select for the final legs and this could be their only and final chance to impress on the international stage however, Ryan has opted to include Mulevoro and Naqusa in the final twelve along with Sevuloni Mocenacagi; who didn’t feature last weekend.
Look forward to more mesmerizing performances from the Fijian men, especially the ”BEAST” Semi Kunatani. On the flip side, captain courageous Osea Kolinisau will be making his 50th World Sevens Series appearance, a first for any Fijian player.
It’s already feeling like a historical weekend for the Fijians, so “can they do it?”
England will be led by the ever-present James Rodwell this weekend, as he plays in his 69th consecutive series tournament. A wonderful milestone for the consistent English player. ”I am very grateful to the coaches I have played under. I love playing the game and I don’t want to stop” Rodwell told worldrugby.org
The English will welcome back John Brake but will miss the services of regular captain Tom Mitchell. The Poms did well last week after a lapse over the first half of the season and they must continue to stay on that heading, toward the season finale at their spiritual home, Twickenham.
Samoa had a mixed weekend in Hong Kong but will be looking for a better outing on this ground where they won the Plate final a decade ago. So they literally have some silverware to defend which is an added motivation but the ultimate goal remains; that is to win that final repecharge tournament for Rio, that is being held in Monaco in June.
The Samoans will again be led by Falemiga Selesele, and will be assisted by Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa, Ed Fidow, Alex Samoa and Belgium Tuatagaloa. The Manu open their campaign against Fiji, so can they repeat their feat from Las Vegas? [they won 24-28]
After another dismal performance last week, the Portuguese men have everything to play for as they are now desperate for points to remain up with the big boys.
It is high time for Aderito Estevez and Pedro Leal to lead their team to some big improvement now, as they really, really, really need to. No time for a siesta!
Pool B (NZL, USA, France, Canada)
The Kiwis have lost captain Tim Mikkelson, and ‘Aerial man’ Sam Dickson to injury, together with Pita Ahki and ‘The Shadowhunter’ Lewis Ormond do coach Sir Gordon Tietjens re-enlisted Liam Messam into the leadership role, something he is not new to (as he has captained the sevens team as a 20 year old)
Antonio Kiri Kiri and Isaac Te Aute will be making their debut as the All Black Sevens welcome back Dylan Coolier to the fold, it is a very young team but with the technical genius of Tietjens directing them, they will be in the final four come Sunday for sure.
The Americans have lost speed merchant Carlin Isles but will give former NFL star Nate Ebner his debut, something the rugby world will be super excited to see how this ex-Gridiron player fairs in the short-code game. It’s popularity increases in the USA and more men of Ebner’s skills base will focus on sevens if he is successful.
A good finish in Singapore will boost their confidence, as they try to emulate their sole title won in London.
Manoel Dall Igna is a try away from his 50th Series try and Virimi Vakatawa is just two away, so the question is not when, but who will be first to get there?
The Les Bleus men will meet the Kiwis again in their opener, and are looking to get one over the old XV’s foes.
Pool C (South Africa, Kenya, Scotland, Russia)
South Africa have roped in Chris Dry to replace Philip Snyman and will try to finish better then they did at the Hong Kong Sevens, This side have appeared in all the cup semi-finals this season but only one tournament victory to show for it. This weekend, they are desperate for a victory and that mindset may be the difference that see’s them capture the Cup final.
They hope to unleash more talent this weekend, in the form of Ruhan Nel and Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi.
The Kenyans know how to exploit Fiji and New Zealand’s vulnerability. It is putting the game to bed that is stopping them from being one of the best in the series. Can Collins Injera beat Santiago Gomez Cora’s try scoring record this week?
Coach Benji Ayimba has done a good job with Kenya and they will only get better.
They had an ‘off-day at the office’ last weekend but will need to pull up their socks to stay up with the big boys and stake their claim for some of those Olympic spots that are up for grabs in the Great Britain team.
Jo Nayacavou, Mark Robertson, Scott Ridell and Jamie Farndale have to lead by example this weekend and put the heat on the African teams.
The Bears won their first ever silverware in the sevens series last week, and will try to improve on that as they must work hard to keep their core status.
They have their personal battle with the Portuguese team, as one of them might likely be the team that finish last this season, and while they might have the upper hand now it is not in their best interest to lose focus on anything other than the next two days at the Singapore Sevens.
Pool D (Australia, Wales, Argentina, Japan)
The Thunderbolts went ‘off the boil’ last weekend when they lost Lewis Holland to injury. He was the x-factor that held them together and hopefully Josh Holmes can fill that void this week. Holmes is returning for the first time to the game, after last appearing in 2007.
James Stannard will captain the side with Ed Jenkins being rested, also back is Pat McCutcheon and the new find Frankie Winterstein continues his sevens education.
The Welsh are peaking at the moment and will welcome back Jeron Groves but will ultimately rely on Luke Treharne, Luke Morgan, Sam Cross and Tom Isaacs to carry them once again. Look for some big clashes in this group where offence will be the best measure of a teams chances in the latter stages.
They won the Bowl last week but far from impressive to be honest. They need to step up as the boys in the Jaguares/representative squad will be available soon and they need to cement their places. So with positions up for grabs, International quality players returning soon, it is ‘all to play for’ the Los Pumas Sevens and they need to start performing at a higher level.
Anyone can join the Aussies in this pool to go through to the quarter finals and the onus is on these men to perform. Bautista Ezcurra, Segundo Tuculet, Nicolas Bruzzone, Axel Muller, Rodrigo Etchart and Javier Ortego Desio all have their work cut out for them.
After securing their place back for next season’s World Seven Series, the Japanese will try to show the world this week just what they have in store for the big boys as Hong Kong was the only side that crossed their line in last week (an incredible defensive effort)
Lemeli Lomano, Lote Tuqiri and Kameli Soejima are the guys that will lead this side to greater heights if only they can tighten up the second and third phase defensive line, then the Japanese men will be ‘a force to be reckon with’. It’s an open pool [relatively] they have a chance.
It’s been a decade since this event was a part of the World Rugby circuit; this time in a new beautifully designed stadium with closed-in roof, so what can we expect? Will this edition of the Singapore Sevens help this city retain their status? Many think so.
The players are ready to rumble, the world awaits the drama that will unfold over this next two days and the one question for all sides to attempt to combat is–can the Fijians finally win their first back-to-back title in 2015/2016?
Follow all the Lowdown from the Singapore Sevens here on Last Word On Sports.
“Main photo credit”