With two weeks until the 2019 Dubai 7s three-day tournament start, both men’s and women’s teams prepare for one of the premier legs of the HSBC Sevens Series.
One of only a handful of tournaments for each competing series, Dubai is the beginning of the men’s year, while it will be leg two for the women. They started the sevens calendar at the USA Women’s event in Glendale, and they will continue at The Sevens Stadium, Dubai.
For the men, it is a Season Premier. So fans in the United Arab Emirates and visitors from abroad should expect a huge burst of energy, as each of the 15 core men’s teams prepare for a key-season. An Olympic cycle, and thus one that requires a commitment from the very start.
Add to that the 50th anniversary of the event, and it makes for a special event.
Have you heard? The #Dubai7s 50th anniversary is upon us!
— Dubai Rugby Sevens (@Dubai7s) November 17, 2019
Scheduled for December 5-7, the 2019 Dubai 7s are only the start, and Last Word on Rugby will cover the entire year of rugby sevens, both women’s and men’s competitions.
HSBC World Series teams prepare for 2019 Dubai 7s season start
For some, this will be a return to a friendly stadium. That includes Dan Norton (see main picture), the record-holding 7s star for England, he will look to again put the English team up near the top of the table.
Yet facing him, will be teams whose goals are just as important. From defending champions Fiji, to the USA Eagles 7s; who performed so admirably in the 2018/19 season. Or, it could be the French men, the ever-present Kiwis or the Blitzboks. South Africa will feel boosted by their XVs counterparts win at the Rugby World Cup – it might be a positive factor, that encourages the three-time Champions towards another title.
Add to that, the news that South Africa will host the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, and the feeling within both the men’s and the women’s camps, will be incredible.
Other sides have also been training and in preparations for the men’s season start. Australia – Oceania 7s champions – as well as Samoa, Kenya, Canada, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Argentina, and Spain and Japan. How well each team starts their calendar year, will determine their probable placing.
The United States team did so last year, and it surged them up the table after multiple second-place finishes. New Zealand have often done the same, as have Fiji. Consistency is always the key to a long series, so the better the start [at the 2019 Dubai 7s] will promote that team and boost their chances of a successful campaign.
And the women’s Sevens series is just as competitive.
Leg two of Women’s Sevens Series at Dubai 7s
After an oddly scheduled opening leg of the Series in the USA, the women have strangely had to sit idle for nearly two months. Won by hosts Team USA, it was a brilliant opening for the American side. Especially with New Zealand finishing in third place; allowing teams like Australia and France to keep the Black Ferns 7s ‘in check’……for now.
📊 STANDINGS: Here are your series standings after the opening round in Glendale
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) October 7, 2019
Expect the New Zealand women to bounce back. Sarah Hirini and her group are far too good to fall twice in a row. In fact, in losing the final leg of 2018/19, it will require a thorough display to convince the opposing 10 core sides.
Dubai has been a favourite for the Aussie women, so besides Canada, England, Russia, and the emerging Irish girls, it means they will all aim to usurp the multi-time NZ champions.
Goalsetting and good planning can help sides meet their objectives. Winning is the ideal, but more often today the measures are in fitness, players backing-up and reaching target sprint speeds. One of the more inventive graphics in the World Rugby coverage are the radar figures on players. Some reaching 30 kmph or faster!
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) October 5, 2019
As the old saying goes, “you can’t beat speed”. And while pace is a necessity, defence is as much a factor in the game today. The tackle – in each series – is a key area of the modern game. How teams can gain advantage in the tackle, making turnovers and in the transition from defence to attack, are vital measures in the sport. Athletes are bigger and stronger, although the aerobic fitness of rugby sevens, is still a mark higher than many XVs players could handle.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger Sevens athletes in 2019
For the elite athletes who run out onto The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, they are all highly conditioned. Many of the ‘old school’ sevens players like Waisale Serevi would still compete in skill but, in terms of fitness, he may be left out of breath, compared to World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Jerry Tuwai.
So the players competing in the 2019 Dubai 7s have all invested plenty in a long preseason. It will pay off over a just as long 2019/20 season. The women competing in an extended, eight leg series. The most ever for them, and resulting in squads being boosted to build-in cover for any (unexpected) injuries. A side effect of increased demands on women, and men but, a risk that players are willing to take with the huge rewards of the upcoming 2020 Olympics only months away – July 27.
Those heights are a long way off though. Multiple legs of the 2019/20 HSBC Sevens Series await all the players. Each will be excited, equally happy to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dubai event, and to undertake a busy two weeks; with the Cape Town 7s only a week later for the World Series sides to focus on.
The 2019 Dubai 7s tournament begins on Thursday, December 5.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images