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Former England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman previews the Singapore Sevens.
"As soon as I stepped off the plane I was hit by the Singapore steam room affect, perhaps more noticeable after slightly fragile state of mind and body post three days of the biggest Hong Kong ever witnessed. A total of 90 Sevens games took place in So Kon Po, 77 of which were on the main pitch, and the tag line of “where the world comes to party’ most definitely isn’t a false claim. The atmosphere, energy and intent of the crowd is a thing that separates Hong Kong as a tournament."
Come on the Irish
A wonderful storyline dating back four years to the very basement tier of Sevens Rugby in Rugby Europe B, as this league was where it all started for this charismatic Irish team. They battled through the tiers and took out some incredible social tournament titles as well as noticeably winning a bronze at HSBC London Sevens last year. It was a journey documented by a few of the team, deemed the originals and makes for an incredibly impressive narrative.
The highs of Hong Kong for the Irish are countered by the emotions of the Welsh team, now bottom for the first time this year. They face an incredibly tough battle, with just three points separating the bottom three teams – and with relegation continuing to be a frightening prospect in an Olympic year. They have drawn Kenya who are one of the teams alongside them, as well as Japan, who have already qualified for the 2020 Olympics as hosts. Wales will no doubt be looking to perform this weekend and ahead of the European Legs where home comforts could be crucial in the preparation for the crescendo of this Series.
Sing if you’re winning
We're back with another @HSBC_Sport 'That Sevens Show' where @robvickerman and @KT_Ten10 review the Hong Kong Sevens, preview the #Singapore7s and asses the series standings for teams as it stands#TSS#HSBC7s #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/3PTSmmfaoe— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) April 11, 2019
This Singapore leg could mark a very special occasion for the USA team, as they can qualify for Tokyo 2020 by securing their place in the top four with no fear of being caught by England, presently in fifth. This is a remarkable effort with two legs to go after this one – albeit they still seek the title and are battling very hard with Fiji. As winners last week in their spiritual home, Fiji return to Singapore as incumbents of the Singapore Trophy, however they have never won a week after winning Hong Kong, as last year the Commonwealth Games intersected the two legs.
Turning up the heat
The action at both ends of the table is proving to have drama, but Singapore presents a challenge on top of the need for points – as the humidity here is comparable to a sauna.
The players have tried to acclimatize throughout the week, but it is very difficult to recreate match intensity a week after three days in Hong Kong, so the test of fitness and endurance will have to be saved for this weekend. Even sitting, walking and commentating in the stadium ends up with a t-shirt needing to be rung out – so to play a game of Sevens six times over the weekend will be simply savage for the players. These players truly are superb athletes.
England’s melting point
The heat is on England to close the nine-point gap between them and South Africa, and the way the draw is they may meet in the semi-finals to give England hope before the home leg in May.
The return of a fully fit Tom Mitchell is a massive boost for England, but sadly they have lost his partner in creativity, Dan Bibby to a shoulder injury. England are now 21 tournaments without a win – but they always have a chance such is their quality. Here is hoping the performances come at a time when it is needed most this season.