Former England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman previews the Canada Sevens tournament in Vancouver this weekend.
One of the best Vegas Shows
Vegas simply loves a show – and if anyone caught the USA Sevens they would not have been disappointed at what they saw.
Dusting off the desert sand and reflecting on one of the most competitive tournaments I can remember, there were so many narratives throughout the three-day leg. The Pools provided some incredible moments typifying just how competitive the series is, with a noted mention to Chile, as 16th team invited to this couplet, they drew with double HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Champions, South Africa. The heartrates continued to rise throughout the weekend with three of the four-quarter finals being won in the last play of the game.
The Vegas storyline ended with the four-time finalists, yet four-time sliver medalists, USA, back up their momentous home victory last year.
This cements their top spot on the standings and creates a chasm of a 31-point gap to fifth place – relevant as it is the top 4 that qualify for the Olympics automatically. This point links nicely to now being in Canada who will benefit massively by the USA flourishing as regional qualification becomes all the more realistic without USA to compete against.
Man and a Van
Sitting in a room overlooking the metropolis that is Downtown Vancouver, itself a Winter Olympic host city in 2010, with the magnificent mountains looking down on the City it is no wonder that this part of the world features so heavily in films and adverts and is known as the Hollywood of the North. It is a wonderful place – and a firm favourite on the Series with fans, teams, managements and staff – verifying this as voted number one stop on the ‘Sevens Tour Survey.’
It is also the only cold venue on a series that is famed for chasing the sun.
This aspect provides some lovely scenes as someone far more versed with the inclimate weather, as the African teams adorn more clothes than thought possible to be held in a suitcase, and for some it is their first ever experience of snow.
The cold weather can sometimes affect training pitches, as well as some players’ spirit level – but bears no resemblance to what will be witnessed this weekend, as the fantastic BC Place is not only with a roof but heaters. The accompanying flame-throwers on the side of the pitch provide further sporadic warmth for what is one of the best two days on the series. There have been three different winners in the last three years, of which England can lay claim to a title.
England race for top 4
By losing to South Africa in the pool stages, many thought the South Africans would further enhance the gap between them and England, but with some stellar performances against Australia and Fiji, England now sit in the safety zone of top 4, and will be most certainly look to build on this.
A draw giving them a match up against Scotland, a week ahead of a vital Six Nations game at Twickenham, will be a cracking start to the tournament, and I foresee a quarter final against South Africa yet again which would leave us well poised for an Olympic head to head showdown.