The opening round draws of the 2016-17 HSBC World Sevens Series has been announced by World Rugby. The season kicks-off in style as always at Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens (7’s). Dubai and World Series defending champs Fiji leads pool A.
Fiji and New Zealand begin the season without their prolific coaches Ben Ryan and Sir Gordon Tietjens respectively. It will be an exciting year with sevens rugby commentator Rob Vickerman putting his money on Argentina.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) September 23, 2016
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series — Dubai 7’s Draw
The Dubai 7’s draw is an interesting one with Japan joining the circus once again after one season in the wilderness. The Portuguese finished 15th and thus lost their seat at the top table with the high flying ever-improving Japanese replacing them.
Pool A ( Fiji, Argentina, Canada, Wales)
Olympic Gold Medalist team Fiji (main picture) will try to defend their Dubai title but with no word yet on who will be leading them. The selection for the new coach is still on-going and it’s highly likely an expatriate will be selected again.
Osea Kolinisau and Jerry Tuwai look set to spearhead their new campaign, with fellow Olympians Kitione Taliga, Apisai Domolailai. Joining them again will be their ‘find for last season’ Masivesi Dakuwaqa.
Santiago Gomez Cora leads the Los Pumas to yet another season after their disappointing sixth place finish in Rio. They had a good side but didn’t execute when needed, something they need to rectify this season.
Canada had a disappointing season with injuries and inconsistency and will be out to prove their critics wrong. They don’t have the luxury of selecting from a large player base but sure know how to utilize the little they have.
The Scarlets of Wales had a lukewarm season last year and will be building on the success of Team GB in Rio, where James Davies was a clear standout. This is an opportune time to for Welsh rugby to develop new players that could represent them in Tokyo 2020.
Pool B (South Africa, Scotland, USA and 16th team)
The Blitzboks from South Africa didn’t finish where they wanted; both in the series, and in Rio. They (like the Pumas) always start well in the season but falter in the middle and in the end. Their mentality has to change, they have the players and technical know how. They need to be consistent and most of all learn to put games to bed and not to be complacent.
Scotland finished the season on a a high with their victory in London. Their tenacity will be vital this season, their spirit to fight till the end is one other teams should follow. It will be a breakout season for Scottish sevens.
The United States didn’t live up to expectations but will be hoping that the new season brings new fortunes. They have an all-round squad with players of exceptional caliber. Consistency and the will to win is what they lack the most. By making a minor change to the team in shifting Perry Baker to the forwards and start Carlin Isles on the wing opportunities abound. Be bold make changes America, see where it leads.
The 16th and final team to Dubai is yet to be named–it is likely to be either a European or African side.
Pool C (New Zealand, England, Russia, Samoa)
The Kiwi’s have lost their mentor, who brought them to this professional era. How they fair in 2016/2017 is what the world is waiting to see. Talent pool is not the problem here but choosing the right ones. They need a man [or woman] in charge who understands them. There might be only two coaches in New Zealand that can pick up that mantle; Sean Horan and Scott Waldrom.
The English retain the core of Team GB and will be out to stamp their mark. Dubai 7’s is their favourite event besides London, and be rest assured they will be in the final four. Russia was impressive last season, underestimate them and you will pay.
Samoa had a disappointing season, they fired Damian McGrath and are looking for redemption. They won in Paris last season and are hoping to rebuild with that with their new coach.
Pool D (Australia, Kenya, France, Japan)
The Aussies will be retaining their core side and have a good chance this season to win their first series title. Their halves combination is where they need depth, if Australia can find that then they will be the the team to beat.
Kenya are looking for a coach too but what they need is a new innovative ways to play the game. Their Achilles heel is their mentality, fix that and you have a team that can beat any team on any given day.
The French are underdogs as always but with more new players joining they will go far this season. They will need to find new ways to work with Virimi Vakatawa without tiring him out. More speed is needed out wide with more vigor and enthusiasm from the forwards.
The Japanese conquered the rugby sevens world in Rio and what they do next in the series is what the rugby world is waiting for. It will be a great season for them with a top ten finish if they are consistent.
The Dubai 7’s will be played on the 2-3 December, 2016.
Follow all the updates, ‘the Lowdown’ and Sevens Series results here, on Last Word on Rugby.