Former England sevens captain Rob Vickerman previews the final leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which concludes in Paris.
Loving London Sevens
The sun was blazing for the majority of the bank holiday weekend in London and those nearly 90,000 fans that came across the two days were treated to some spectacular scenes.
The rugby crowds got to appreciate a typical festival of fun in both the West Car Park and in the famed Twickenham stands – adorned with colour, and loud in voice throughout the whole weekend. The circuit now lands in Paris, and let us all hope the players survive the electric scooters that are getting some serious usage here in the French capital.
There were many celebrations for a sub-plot on the sidelines over both Saturday and Sunday as the four automatic qualification slots for Tokyo 2020 have now been decided.
USA and Fiji sealed their fate by simply making the quarters, and New Zealand and South Africa joined them by way of England not progressing. This will be a welcome weight off the shoulders for these teams, and all done before the final leg – meaning a season long goal ticked off and potentially allowing serious enjoyment levels coming into the last weekend, perhaps all bar those at the very top and bottom of the standings table.
With Fiji winning the HSBC London Sevens it has created the sixth change at the top, pushing the South Pacific Islanders two points ahead of the omnipotent USA team, who once again gained a medal, their seventh from nine events, this time a bronze – continuing their feat of finishing in the top four in all legs this season.
It is poised to be a remarkable finish in Paris this weekend as just two points separate the two nations, and even if USA win, Fiji could still claim the title by finishing third on points difference. There will be 450 games on this series and it could all go down to the last two games.
Battle at the bottom
Wales should have secured enough points to be safe of being relegated from the HSBC World Ruby Series, as they now have a five point gap over bottom team Japan, somewhat buoyed by beating hosts England last weekend and closing the gap on Kenya by a point.
The devastation of the teams will not be pleasant viewing come Sunday evening, but shows how competitive the series is. Japan have already qualified for Tokyo as hosts, but it will be a shame to lose them from the global circuit.
England’s eye on the future
Twickenham didn’t see the best England has to offer but there was a good deal of things to celebrate. A tough pool draw with as many as seven front line players missing was never going to be easy, but a brilliant win against Scotland (with Tom Bowen’s score being a highlight), and a win against old foes New Zealand were solid achievements to be shadowed by a superior points difference by the audacious Irish, who cannot get on the Series core status quickly enough.
As the focus for England now lands on European qualifiers for the Olympics, there will be many changes to give a glimpse as to what the squad may look like post Tokyo, as the young lads with promise and potential are picked for a run out at Stade Jean-Bouin, much like I was at 19!
Aside from the coveted Series Trophy, Sunday night sees the awards roll into town honouring the DHL impact player, UL mark of excellence, Cap Gemini coach of the year and the World Rugby rookie as well as player of the year.
VOTE for your World Rugby Sevens Rookie of the Year 2019!— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) May 28, 2019
The nominees are:
Tweet one of the options below to vote! #HSBC7s
There are some quite simply outstanding nominations for these categories, and do cast your vote online, but I have a feeling it will be Fiji and USA stealing the show as the two standout teams containing the most courageous of players. It is a tough job to decide them, and the judging panel will no doubt be locked in room for several hours to hammer it out.
The Sevens year has had a wonderful narrative, and is set to continue to right to the very end.