Can Aussies again reach Vancouver top four?

by Jill Scanlon

Australia is showing all the signs of settling into a rhythm of producing confidence driven performances as it heads into Round Six of the HSBC World Series this weekend in Vancouver, Canada.

In the inaugural 2016 Canada Sevens tournament, the Aussies reached the final four on Day Two.

They lost the third place playoff to Fiji by just one converted try having been defeated in the semi by the eventual tournament winner New Zealand.

The last two tournaments have seen positive results produced by the young Aussie team and while they could not replicate the top four finish from Sydney, the 12 points gained in Las Vegas has moved them into fifth place in the series standings – right behind the Big Four.

This is perhaps a good indication this new team dynamic has Australia on the right track early in their rebuilding phase.

South Africa continues to have a dream run in the World Series but Sevens is a fickle game and pundits love the notion of the balance of probability rearing its head.

It is hard to envision the Blitzboks not making it to the final four on Sunday in Vancouver, but they were challenged in the final two games on the way to the USA Sevens title, so there could be an upset in the offing.

POOL A

South Africa, England, Kenya, Chile

With a 24 point lead in the Series standings over nearest rival Fiji, it is hard to see the Blitzboks being overtaken by the pack across the remaining five rounds.

England has dropped to third in the rankings after its fifth place win over Australia in Las Vegas. It will be determined to get back into a second day final four position.

While Kenya is often the crowd favourite, exciting fans with power and flare, its best finish has been sixth in Cape Town and is struggling to find any consistency in its performances.

Chile is in its second tournament as this season’s invitational team for the North American leg of the series.

While there is little chance of a quarter finals berth, Chile did impress fans with its fighting spirit last weekend, and will no doubt be looking to gain more valuable experience at this level before heading to the Hong Kong Qualifying tournament.

POOL B

Fiji, Argentina, Samoa, Wales  

Fiji dominates this pool from every aspect and will be expected to progress to the quarter finals.


But Argentina should not be underestimated, having surprised New Zealand last weekend with a two point victory on Day One to take top spot in their pool.

The subsequent loss in the quarter finals to eventual bronze medallists the USA – again by just two points – was followed by a second defeat at the hands of Australia.

However these two finals losses, resulting in a seventh place finish, perhaps misrepresent Argentina’s true current form.

Wales and Samoa have both showed some positive signs this season but have not been able to go on with it.

So this group may be a case of watch and see on the day.

POOL C  

USA, Australia, France, Japan

With the Series performances so far of Australia’s three opponents, the Aussies could be expected to have a better than even chance of qualifying for the quarter finals.

Although no outcome can ever be assumed in Sevens, the biggest battle Australia will have is against the USA, which has arrived in Vancouver with a renewed determination and confidence off the back of its home performance.

Tom Lucas will skipper the side in Vancouver. Photo: AFPFrance finished 11th last weekend – its worst result yet in this series. While it has significant experience and star power in its line-up, the results are not being posted on the scoreboard.

Japan finished in the bottom three in Las Vegas and is in danger of dropping out of the core group if it does not pick up some valuable points.

Given the current level of performance from its pool opponents, Japan will have to work hard to make the top eight in Vancouver.

POOL D

New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, Russia

New Zealand is the reigning Canada Sevens champion having won the inaugural event in Vancouver last year.

The Bronze medal loss to the USA in Las Vegas would have been a major disappointment and the Kiwis will be looking to get back to a top place finish.

Canada made the quarter finals last weekend but came up against a rampaging Fiji and progressed no further.

However, this is its home tournament and crowd support has proven to be a major factor so far this series and therefore a repeat of the form shown in Wellington, where Canada made the semi-finals, could be on the cards.


Scotland, as has been witnessed this series, can be a tough opponent on its day. But given recent poor performances which have seen it drop from fourth to seventh in the standings, it will need to recalibrate.

Russia is rebuilding with new players and has not really posed a significant threat to better placed opponents.

The temperature is way down in Vancouver but the Canada Sevens tournament is set to be another action-packed weekend on the World Series circuit as organisers are excitedly reporting an expected sell-out across both days.

DRAW

HSBC Sevens World Series, Vancouver, Day One, Sunday 12 March AEDT

Australia v France 4.30am

Australia v Japan 8.06am

Australia v USA 12.08pm

Play kicks off at 4.30am AEDT on Sunday when Australia takes on France in the first game. LIVE coverage on Fox Sports Ch505 begins 4.20am AEDT.

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