World Sevens Series - Qualifier Preview by Rob Vickerman

During the marquee Hong Kong Sevens spectacle there will be a qualifying tournament taking place for what is a huge ticket. To be precise, not just one ticket, but 10 - a place in the HSBC Sevens World Series. Destinations such as Dubai, Las Vegas, Sydney, Vancouver, Cape Town and London. Truly a year for the bucket list!

The nature of Sevens means that games can often be won by a bounce of a ball - a moment of brilliance, or perhaps, a glaring mistake. Imagine the pressure on the players knowing what is on offer; the global travel, full time professional schedules and experiences to play against the world's best. This tournament has history for exactly these highly pressurised moments of which the hosts, Hong Kong, can testify. They trained all year as a full time squad to go out in the quarters to Russia last year in front of 50,000 supporters. 


Russia themselves also showed moments of immense fortitude - and deservedly won the final against an impressive Zimbabwe outfit - scoring a late try by their one man wrecking ball, Ostroushko. As graduates from this tournament last year Russia are struggling somewhat on this year's series, only picking up 15 points from 6 tournaments. This is to be expected - and their efficacy gained from playing the so called 'higher tier nations' will only be of significant benefit, and what an experience. They take on South Africa, Scotland and crowd favourites, England in a jam packed So Kon Po stadium. 


Those not well versed with Sevens may well be shocked to see Russia doing well in the shorter version of the game, or perhaps, also Zimbabwe. So seeing the likes of Germany, Mexico, Chile and the Cayman Islands may well raise eyebrows further.


The truth is that these teams are using Sevens as the vehicle that it should be used. As a game that showcases the values of rugby without the need for such huge infrastructure, facility and resource. They are very talented teams and play with typical sevens spirit consisting of flair and commitment.


The tournament itself is somewhat of a spilt tier. Japan will be far too strong for most, if not all teams, given their recent 1/4 final at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver as they drew with England and beat France in the process. The experiences of Tonga and Brazil will also be valuable to their success, made tougher by Pool C containing all of Japan, Brazil and Tonga. Hong Kong are the unknowns, but always the most conditioned - which is one of the most important pre-requisites for sevens. Spain, too, show moments of real quality with an experienced core in their side - a team England often struggled against with their physicality and set piece as well as restart ability.  


Zimbabwe are the team, however, that capture the hearts of the fans. Similarity to 'U-gan-da' chants echoing around Ibrox for the commonwealth - they play with such incredible dedication that you can't not be absorbed by a team who typify the true reasons for playing rugby; camaraderie and challenge. They were so cruelly robbed for a place at Rio 2016 by an after full time try from Kenya. This could well be their chance for redemption, for undoubtedly a bigger prize - if Japan let it be so, that is! 



Editor's Note - Dan Mason: Thanks to former England Sevens Captain Rob Vickerman for penning this piece for us (and reducing my workload by 1/3 this weekend)! You should drop everything, run to Twitter and follow Rob by clicking here & hitting that follow button! We'll have tons of coverage of the Hong Kong 7's, the Qualifier & the Atlanta 7's on @Rugby_Global!