Sevens is an amazing game and the World Cup is coming up soon and will show the best rugby has to offer.
The 7s World Cup starts this July. Based in San Francisco this tournament will see the top talent of sevens fight it out to see who is the top dog.
40 teams from 28 countries will play it out from the 20th to 22nd of July to find out the best men and women’s sevens teams in the world. These teams are already battling it out this year on the sevens circuit. Recently America triumphed in Las Vegas and Fiji won in Vancouver. However, the top three at the moment are South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand. Australia, New Zealand and Canada lead for the women.
Top stars in the past
In the past, this tournament has showcased some of the top talents in the world. In 2009 when Wales lifted the trophy Rhys Webb and Aled Brew were on the team. Similarly that same year Victor Vito, Julian Savea, Chris Wyles, DTH Van Der Merwe, Ciaran Hearn, Michael Leitch and Collins Injera showed their class. Last time around in Russia, New Zealand won with the likes of Waisake Naholo. Honing their skills then were Bernard Foley, Sean McMahon, Seabelo Senatla, Leone Nakawara, Vereniki Goneva and James Davies were on show.
This shows how top talent is shown at this stage. All talent scouts and national team selectors should be watching this tournament if they want to find the next big thing. In recent years the Ioane brothers, Kwagga Smith and Virimi Vakatawa have proven they can cut it at both sevens and top levels. This tournament will show some of the best and most exciting talents of future years. If your looking for a ‘bolter’ coming towards the 2019 World Cup then my bet is that they’ll be honing their craft in San Fran this summer.
Talent to look out for
Obviously, it’s not just the past talent that should get people excited about this tournament but also the great talent that will be on show this summer. Some young talent coming through includes:
Seabelo Senatla, South Africa
A true star of sevens, Senatla has scored 219 tries over his career. Senatla has bags of pace which is a major contributor to his 6.25 points a game this year. His amazing try record led him to being named the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2016. Senatla has already made a breakthrough in fifteens for the Stormers where he is trying to become the next big star to convert from sevens to fifteens. Admittedly this has limited his game time in sevens. Yet Senatla is determined to prove his class on the global stage at the world cup. If he performs well maybe he’ll get himself a spot in Rassie Erasmus’ first squad.
Luke Morgan, Wales
With 31 tries Morgan is 2nd top try scorer this year. Added to that he has only played 32 matches so he has almost scored a try per game. No wonder opposition know him as the Welsh danger-man. With a massive 40 clean breaks Morgan can seemingly attack from anywhere and the opposition is never safe when he is on the pitch. With World Rugby acknowledging his pace and try scoring ability.
Vilimoni Koroi, New Zealand
At only 19 Koroi was playing for New Zealand schoolboys only last year in which he played on the wing. He has speed in abundance and some great footwork which have lead to him scoring 15 tries. However, the young speedster also has a knack for kicking which him slotting 29 conversions. Koroi has an impressive 4.59 points per game showing how deadly he is. His tally of 133 points means he has scored the 9th most points this season, opposition be warned.
Ben O’Donnell, Australia
As the current leader in the DHL Impact player charts, O’Donnell has some seriously good stats. His 135 carries and 37 breaks have led to an amazing 26 tries. Which is 16.5% of Australia’s points all year, a player with such an impact on a game is surely one to look out for. At 22 this attacking threat has lots of his career ahead of him after an odd entrance to the circuit. We know O’Donnell is a true sevens player due to player as he has 19 offloads so far. Keeping the tempo high and making it that bit more interesting and fun for the audience of the magic that is sevens.
John Porch, Australia
Another Australian to look out for is John Porch. An eye for a gap Porch has converted 29% of his 84 carries this year into breaks. added on to this the 6ft 1in man has an impressive 22 tries from his 24 breaks. As well as 3 penalties this year taking his points tally to 116. This shows his kicking skills as well as the natural finisher that he is.
Some more experienced stars of the circuit include Perry Baker with 32 tries and was the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year 2017. Werner Kok the World Rugby Sevens player of the Year 2015. Jerry Tuwai, Rosko Specman, Dan Norton, Tom Mitchell, Collins Injera the list goes on with the extreme talent now on show in sevens.
Furthermore, players like Justin Tipuric and Hallam Amos have been included in the Welsh Sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast of Australia. This shows how we could yet see top distinguished international talent looking to play in San Francisco later this year.
A top circuit
At the moment the circuit is electric. 1,581 tries having been scored on 6 stages and a colossal 9,958 points have been scored. This year 18 teams have competed and of those 8 have come 1st, 2nd or 3rd. The top try scorer Perry Baker has a massive count of 32 tries and overall South Africa have 148 tries. Like Japan beating the Springboks at the World Cup in 2015, the circuit has had a few upsets in the last few years. Canada have beaten Fiji and Scotland beat England to the London title last year.
New markets are being explored all over the world. The sevens circuit goes on around the world in Vegas, Dubai and Singapore. These areas show our glorious game to new markets and people, it lets the game grow. Recently Russia, Uruguay, Spain, Uganda, Kenya and Papua New Guinea have shown themselves on this stage. Kenya even won the Singapore stage in 2015-2016, which Canada won in 2016-2017. This shows the immense talent coming through and the opportunity and desire these teams have.
In 2016, Sevens gained its Olympic status. Letting Fiji claim they’re first ever Olympic gold medal in Rio. This opened the eyes of the world to our beautiful game. As a major international showcase, the Olympics will have massively benefited the growth of rugby around the world. Brazil played at the Olympics and will return and show their class in San Francisco showing how smaller nations can flourish.
In particular, the American market is growing more and more. By the sevens World Cup, the Major League Rugby competition will have completed its first season. So the market is growing at an amazing rate. With the success in Vegas for the sevens teams and with this World Cup, the American market could be infatuated with rugby like they are usually with sport. Even World Rugby have admitted America is a major expanding market for rugby.
After a loophole was found a few years back, sevens is now a way for players to switch international teams. Tim Nanai-Williams switched to Samoa after committing to New Zealand. After being in the international wilderness for three years he played for Samoa in sevens. He now has 11 caps showing this system can help get players international careers back on track.
This is now available for the likes of Ma’a Nonu who has said he would like to play for Samoa in the future. His last game came in 2015 so this year he can start playing for Samoa in time for the 2019 World Cup. However, his last game came in late October of 2015 so it won’t be until that time this year that we’ll see the beast that is Nonu on the circuit and then hopefully for Samoa. This means that Nonu will be eligible for the start of the circuit next year. Hopefully, he’ll take this opportunity to raise Samoan rugby and give them some hype going to the World Cup. Samoa have had some negative press recently due to corruption un their governing body and lack of major pah for stars so hopefully, Nonu and other stars can bring a new emphasis to Samoan rugby.
With Samoa’s current problem to qualify for the world cup would stars like Nonu help. Samoa finds themselves playing Spain to qualify. If they lose that then they enter the repechage versus 3 other teams one of which will be Canada. so would a FIFA style process help.
Author: Ollie Evans
I’m from South Wales and have grown up with rugby all around me and the Millenium Stadium on my doorstep. A massive fan of all things rugby, but never been particularly good despite having played since I was 6.