This weekend sees the Rugby World Cup Sevens kick off, it is an event we have had to wait five years for but I’m certain it will most certainly be worth the wait. The levels of excitement are comparable to the last major global rugby event – the Olympic Games in 2016, but this tournament is going to be bigger and better.
An astonishing and unique tournament sees 40 men and women’s teams contest the 85 matches over three days in San Francisco. Adding to this standalone event, there is a new format that is set to get the pulses racing straight from the start.
The latter stages of the football World Cup and Wimbledon formats of knock out competition show how entertaining, emotional and heart breaking sport can be – so World Rugby have introduced this format without the usual pool games associated with Sevens.
During her childhood, @Hfisher2012 dealt with anorexia, her parents' divorce and four secondary schools.— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) July 18, 2018
Ahead of the #RWC7s, the #England7s player opens up how her life moulded her https://t.co/FhRidiHSMt pic.twitter.com/f5DH7t11j9
It will mean every single game for the teams contesting the main Cup is vitally important to perform in, with no second chances. For seeds one-to-eight, win four games and you are world champions, lose one and you are out of the Cup competition, and as with US sport – there are no draws. Drama is guaranteed.
World Cup memories
From a playing perspective I can call on the experiences from two World Cups, with Dubai in 2009 being a brilliant example of things not going as planned. A relatively easy pool stage ended up with us as the last game to play in the quarter-finals having witnessed South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji incredibly all lose in the preceding games. Sadly, we ended up also losing, to Samoa, with Wales eventually winning their final against Argentina to become world champions.
The biggest event in the #Rugby7s calendar kicks off this weekend, but how well do you know the tournament?— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) July 18, 2018
It's time to put your #RWC7s knowledge to the test: https://t.co/7emjtigubm pic.twitter.com/Do2X22a4MJ
However, in 2013 we as a more experienced full time Sevens team got to the final only to be whitewashed in the torrential rain by an impressive New Zealand team, who also saw their women’s team claim the Cup.
If there is one thing the United States understands, it is sporting occasions.
Flicking through the countless sports channels smacks you with an awareness that sport rules over here. Sports teams are multi-billion dollar companies and the stadiums are a thing to behold. The AT&T Park hosting the event, usually home to the Giants baseball team, is one of the most picturesque stadiums located prominently in downtown San Francisco, with views across the bay.
The home support will be cheering on the USA 7’s team, who last played on home soil in Las Vegas in March, and won the Cup. This isn’t good news for either Wales or England as they both potentially face the improving team.
One step better
England men and women come into this tournament both having tough seasons on the circuit, but with knowledge that they have vastly experienced sides and some supremely talented individuals.
The nature of this format means that these two specific aspects become incredibly important, as pressure will be akin to the big Olympic matches, but right from the start, and will grow with each round as the seedings play a part.
New Zealand will be tough to tame for the women on their pathway, and for the men Fiji have named a team with Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova and Leone Nakarwa, some of the best rugby players on the planet, in either 15-a-side or 7’s rugby – so stopping them may need a significant bollard.
This is going to be one very fascinating tournament.