There are just three rounds remaining in the 2016-17 HSBC Sevens World Series. Time flies when you're having fun, right? We're in Singapore this weekend and the Kenyans are the defending champions here while South Africa reigns supreme atop the season standings. Let's take a peek at this weekend's pools...
POOL A: Fiji, Canada, Russia, Hong Kong
Fiji got back in the win column with a Cup title in Hong Kong last weekend and they face a fairly easy road to another Cup Quarterfinal this weekend. Despite Canada's resurgance in play this season, they aren't a great matchup for the Fijians at the moment. Fiji rolled to a 29-12 win in the Hong Kong Quarters last weekend over the Canadians. Russia is in 14th place winning the relegation battle and Hong Kong lost in last weekend's Series Qualifier in the Quarterfinals to Germany. On tour, that's as easy as it gets.
While Canada is 0-3 versus Fiji, they are 4-0 against Russia this season and should be able to repeat as Cup Quarterfinalists this weekend if they take care of business. In fact, Hong Kong has a lot to prove after last weekend's defeat and may be a tougher out than Russia. Three tries for John Moonlight will make 100 on the Series.
Russia did slump through the North American stages of the World Series, gaining a total of two points on the continent. However, they do enjoy an eight point advantage over Japan with just three stops left to stay on tour next season. Having #1 Vladimir Ostroushko in the lineup is a massive boost for this side. If they could do some damage this weekend either via an upset of Canada or Fiji or by winning a few games in the Challenge Cup round, it'd make things extremely tough for Japan to catch them...at least with their current twelve.
POOL B: South Africa, England, France, Japan
The South Africans have all but sealed the 2016-17 World Series title but aren't satisfied. They want to win the Cup at every stop now and you can bet they'll come back strong this weekend. However, with England in this pool, there's no guarantee they can win Pool B. The English have had as much success against the Blitzboks as any team this season and have an edge on the outside with Dan Norton's presence. Norton is now the all-time leading Series try scorer with 246 and he's perhaps more dangerous than ever. SA are ahead on points but don't let that fool you, a match between the two is a coin flip at this stage. Captain Tom Mitchell is out along with Kerr and Waddleton so three new-ish faces are in for England. Will Glover makes his debut while Callum Sirker and Will Edwards earn their second appearance for England's 7's. And yes, the Glovers in the side are brothers.
France are now 12th on the ladder and haven't cracked the Cup Quarters since Wellington (3rd stop of the Series). Therefore, not a bad time to add some new faces into the squad for development! Alexis Palisson ((Yes, THAT Palisson from Toulouse)) and Pierre Fouyssac (SU Agen) step into the side. Don't be shocked if Palisson adds that dimension that the French have been missing. It may be enough for them to spring an upset on England for example.
Japan's hopes for the 2017-18 Series are slipping away and no reinforcements seem to be in sight. If they have better performances in this group, we need to see them now. It's as simple as that.
POOL C: Australia, Argentina, Kenya, Samoa
The Kenyans are reigning champs here and perhaps for good reason. It's HOT and humid in Singapore and the Kenyans know it's just like home. While many teams are recovering from a tough, three day affair in Hong Kong, the Kenyans have a tremendous opportunity here. Their physical style of play will be a real bear in these conditions. However, the Aussies picked up bronze in Hong Kong, the Argentinians are always a difficult out and the Samoans are improving every week. If I had to pick it, this is the toughest pool in Singapore.
POOL D: USA, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales
This is a much tougher pool than recent form would have you believe. Scotland gave the USA fits earlier in the campaign and Wales drew with Cup Champs Fiji just last weekend in Hong Kong. So, tough draw for the favorites here. Perry Baker of the USA is only three tries behind Dan Norton for the season lead (36-33). The presence of a superstar like Baker isn't drawing any attention away from the depth of talent that the US has on display. While the US have made the top four in the last two tourneys, NZ has finished fifth. The men in black will be looking to switch that up in Singapore by knocking off the US in pool play to get that top seed for the quarters. NZ have four subs from last weekend including Tong Ng Shui, Lewis Ormond in the #13 jersey and Joe Webber. Dylan Collier, Tim Mikkelson, Scott Curry & Issac Te Tamaki are out.
Scotland and Wales are both playing pretty inconsistent rugby at the moment. Each have won a Challenge Cup in the last two tourneys and each have finished in the bottom four in the same span. Either could beat any team in the pool and turn right around and lose the other two matches.
Quarters & Beyond:
Am taking South Africa, France, Fiji, Canada, Kenya, Australia, the US & New Zealand to advance to the Cup Quarters. I'll take Fiji to continue their form and win the Cup in Singapore. The squad just needed a bit of time to gel together and get to know each other to flourish and they've gotten that by now. Also, Fiji's physical conditioning does come into play on a hot, humid weekend like this.