Brutal reality of World Cup Sevens format

Rugby World Cup 7s - Mens
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

“If you’re off your game, then see you later.”

That’s the brutal reality of the Rugby World Cup Sevens format, Aussie men’s Sevens coach Tim Walsh says.

Next week’s season-ending tournament is a sudden-death shootout for every team, differing from the usual World Series structure that includes pool stages before a knockout finals day.

That means there is no margin for error, no matter where a country sits in the international rankings.

Australia’s men kick off their campaign against the winner of a first round match between Jamaica and France but their tournament could be over after just 14 minutes if they don't step up straight away.

Aussie men's Sevens coach Tim Walsh says the World Cup format will be a brutal one. Photo: Getty ImagesWalsh said the mental test in that would almost supersede the physical in the cut-throat format, something that he has been working to turn around with a men's team that has had mixed results through its history.

He has experience to draw on in that space, though, having steered the women's side to a host of trophies in his five-year tenure.

“I know watching the girls in Paris, they were down and out and you just knew they were going to come back and win, you knew they would find a way to win,” he said.

“That's various different factors around it and I think that is the difference with this men's team, is their ability to consistently win.

“I hear a lot of coaches say, 'Anyone can win it, anyone can win Olympics'. That's rubbish. One team's going to win, but to do it consistently is the hard thing and that's that resilience.

“This tournament lends itself to less physical resilience and more mental resilience because it's a different format.”

Walsh has been true to his history of meticulous preparation, flipping the team’s schedule on its head as they prepare for the 7:30pm kick off they will have in their San Francisco opener.

“We’ve got a 7:30 kick off in the evening and no games prior, so we've been applying our training to that,” he said.

“We've been spending all day not doing anything and then going out there and playing.

“You're trying to replicate game situations and just little things that are putting players under pressure.”

Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams will co-captain the Sevens in San Francisco. Photo: Getty ImagesFor Australia’s women, their greatest test in San Francisco will come in the form of one foe - New Zealand.

After a blistering start to the season, the injury-ravaged Aussies slipped up in two Cup finals to the Kiwis that turned into blow-out defeats, on top of a heart-breaking Commonwealth Games gold medal match loss.

The Aussies and Kiwis aren’t slated to meet again until the final and coach John Manenti said the return of Olympians Alicia Quirk, Ellia Green and Sharni Williams would make a major difference to their side.

“Nobody likes coming second and effectively that's what we did a couple of times there but it wasn't so long ago that we were on the other side of the coin,” he said.

“Until you get to the heat of the battle, it's hard to know but we've certainly made plans around it.

“There's no question that bringing three world-class players into the mix will help...but I think we've got some really good plans around what to do should we get that far in the tournament should we get to play each other.”

The Rugby World Cup Sevens kicks off on Friday July 20, running until Sunday July 22.