Rugby World Cup Sevens is all playoffs, all the time
The Rugby World Cup Sevens kicks off Friday afternoon at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Here are seven things you need to know:
This is most definitely a World Cup
Compared to the World Rugby Sevens Series, which is what the Canada Sevens tournament in March and May’s Canada Women’s Sevens are part of, the Rugby World Cup Sevens has 24 men’s teams (the Canada Sevens features 16) and 16 women’s team (the Canada Women’s Sevens has 12).
The schedule is a never-seenbefore thing
Unlike regular sevens tournaments, which groups teams for opening day pool play and then runs knockout playoff rounds on the second day, this weekend sees teams starting in knockout rugby right off the bat.
In other words, it’s all playoffs all the time. You lose once and you lose your chance at the title, but you’ll keep playing in consolation brackets for final seeding.
Coaches on the series aren’t fans of the new format — “I’m not sure it’s been done for rugby reasons,” Canadian coach Damian McGrath has said, for one — but organizers believe it will raise the excitement level for fans, especially at the top end, since every game is essentially do or die.
Canadian women could win it all Canada’s chances of pulling off dual-gold is low. The women are the best bet to win it all, though as the third seeds they would be a dark horse choice.
The favourites are New Zealand and Australia on the women’s side and the Canadians, assuming they beat Brazil (almost certain) and then France in the quarters (a tougher proposition but generally Canada has been the better team), they’ll run into Australia in the semis.
They have beat the Aussies plenty in the past but it’s been a bit of a rebuilding year for the Canadians so this matchup would be especially tough.
If they get through the Aussies, they’d almost certainly face the Kiwis in the final and the New Zealand women have been flying high all year.
Canadian men face Fijian wall The Canadian men come into the weekend seeded 10th. They face Papua New Guinea in the first round and should win that one pretty easily. Then in the round of 16, they’ll be up against Argentina. The Argentines have been a good opponent for the Canadians lately and the two squads tend to play tight, grinding rugby against each other.
The Canadians, who are finally at full strength, are pretty much the best team and retaining possession on the entire series and if the system works, they beat most teams.
If the Canadians win, waiting for them in the quarter-finals, almost certainly, will be Fiji. The Fijians finished second in the World Series this season. Coach Gareth Baber had so many players available for the World Cup that he’s left series rookie of the year Eroni Sau at home. This is a big team that will punish any mistake you make.
South Africa, New Zealand and U.S. will be tough
On the men’s side South Africa won the World Series title this season while the All Blacks won the Commonwealth Games gold, beating Fiji.
And the home team had a bit of a down year but it features the two most dangerous try scorers on the series in Carlin Isles and Perry Baker. Baker was the World Rugby sevens player of the year in 2017, while Isles was the leading try scorer during the 2017-18 season.
New Zealand entry is dualdefending champs
They didn’t invent the game, but the way they play it makes you think they did: New Zealand are consistently the world’s best team, no matter the format or gender.
At the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens, played in a mostly empty stadium in Moscow, New Zealand won the men’s and women’s competitions.
The Canadian women faced the Black Ferns, as they’re known, in the final but lost 29-12. On the men’s side, the All Blacks beat England 33-0.
It’s seven minutes per half Games consist of two, sevenminute halves. It’s five points for a try, two more if you make the conversion, which must be a dropkick.
On average, there about six tries scored per game — so yes, most games are very close.
Dangerous tackles and intentionally negative play are often punished with a yellow card, which means the penalized player sits for two minutes.
But the clock doesn’t start until the penalized player’s butt is in the chair by the officials’ desk near midfield.