The highly anticipated return of the HSBC Sevens World Series is upon us as the 2017/18 season kicks-off in Dubai this weekend.
The 16 team event features the 15 core-nations and the 2017 African Cup Sevens winners, Uganda. The first leg of the 10-leg circuit takes place on 1-2 December 2017.
The seven month season, spanning over five continents, includes two extra events this time around. The Gold Coast host the Commonwealth Games in April 2018, where some of the strongest Commonwealth nations, including England, New Zealand and Australia, will go head-to-head. The season concludes with the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Fransisco, USA in June 2018. There is certainly much to play for.
Who to look out for?
After last year’s dominance, South Africa are hot favourites to retain their Dubai Sevens crown. And don’t be surprised if they retain the World Series title either. Under the leadership of coach Neil Powell, the Blitzboks are filled with talent. None more so than Lions superstar Kwagga Smith. The fan favourite returns to the sevens scene before the start of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Joining Smith include the likes of Seabelo Senatla, Rosko Specman and Cecil Afrika, as the Blitzboks look well equipped to retain their title.
Alongside the South Africans last year was the impressive England team, coached by former player Simon Amor. They are a team boasting enormous talent and experience. With the likes of Dan Norton, James Rodwell and Tom Mitchell in their midst, they will have their eyes firmly fixed on the Sevens crown.
As per usual, the Fijians will be ever-present in Dubai and the remaining 9 legs, as they look to win their third world title in four years. Seeking redemption are the All Blacks Sevens, who failed to make a single final last season. Meanwhile, Australia, Canada and surprise-package Scotland will also look to have a say in this year’s title.
The USA: The most dangerous team?
The impressive USA Sevens outfit has been growing year-on-year. Under the guidance of experienced Sevens coach Mike Friday, and fielding World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year winner Perry Baker, the Americans are one of the deadliest teams on the circuit. Don’t rule them out as contenders.
Once a dominant force, Gordon Tietjens’ Samoa will find it hard to compete against the wealthier nations. But with another season under his belt as head coach, Tietjens could lead the Samoans back to their former glory. With all the controversy over the Autumn Internationals, a solid performance in the Dubai tournament would be very satisfying.
The Sevens, Dubai
Day One features all 16 sides participating in the pool matches before day two’s knockout games. The top two of each group go through to contest for the Cup.
Day One features some cracking contests, with the stand out matches being New Zealand vs USA and Fiji vs Australia. Look out for some tasty fixtures in Canada vs Kenya and Argentina vs Samoa as well. It should be a fascinating event as the major Sevens nations look to gain an early lead in the race for the World Series crown.
Behind Hong Kong, Dubai has arguably the best Sevens atmosphere. With fancy dress competitions and a great mix of cultures combining in the 40,000 seater stadium, the Dubai Sevens looks set to start the Sevens festival for 2017/18 with a bang.
Kick-off is 10:30 local time, as the world’s biggest party gets ready for another brilliant year of Sevens.
Author: Jack Jones
It’s all a bit confusing. I’m half English, half Irish, but born and raised in Hong Kong. That’s left with me an enriched love for all sport. Whether it be my passion for QPR, Dave Rennie’s Chiefs or Joe Root’s England Cricket side, I really can’t get enough.