This coming weekend the IRB, now in partnership with the bank HSBC, kicks off the 12th year of the IRB Sevens World Series. The fan base of this immensely popular series and competition has grown year on year and this year looks to be no different.
As it has in previous years, the series kicks off in Dubai, at a stadium specifically designed for the tournament, where sixteen of the top sevens teams in the World face off across the weekend in the sports usual hard hitting style.
Contributing to the IRB World Series, the Dubai event is part of eight tournament stops across the world over 6 months, with teams competing for points at each stop. The winner is the team with the most points at the end of the tournament. Samoa currently holds the title, but retaining the crown isn’t going to be easy for the albeit powerful squad.
The USA has not fared well in Dubai over the past few years, something that Head Coach Al Caravelli is looking to address. A lot of focus has been put into making the squad bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before, but their lack of significant game time in the lead up to the tournament is the major issue.
Most of the other major sevens teams (and some of the minor ones) have already notched at least one pre-series warmup tournament to work out the kinks. The USA hoped to play in Singapore in preparation, but in the end lacked the funding to make it happen.
“Our team has traditionally not done too well in Dubai, the first tournament of the season, since we haven’t been able to attend any warm-up tournaments, but that doesn’t dampen our spirits or affect our planning,” said Caravelli in a recent article he wrote for IRB.com.
“Not having the benefit of a hit-out in a warm-up event puts a little pressure on the players and staff to go beyond what we’ve achieved before and that is the only way we can really be competitive since all of our competition are able to play tournaments before arriving in Dubai.”
The Eagles have been drawn in Pool B, along with New Zealand, Argentina and Zimbabwe. The USA have the unenviable task of facing New Zealand first, a team they have never bested. While the team should ideally be going into this aiming to win every game, from a practical standpoint they may be better served focusing on their other 2 matches.
Following that tricky matchup, Argentina is next, a squad the US trounced an impressive 3 times next season. This only contributed to the ongoing rivalry between the sides, and this match-up may come to decide which team makes the quarter finals.
Up last in pool play for the USA is Zimbabwe. While they only participate in a handful of tournaments each season, they are not to be taken lightly. Zimbabwe has the ability to play and expansive game and strike quick. The USA needs to be clinical in order to win this one. However, anything less than a win is going to be a bitter pill for the USA to swallow.
Despite a titan to defeat in New Zealand, this is a very good group for the USA to be drawn in. Two of these games are eminently winnable, and a fantastic way to break the Dubai curse and some points on the board moving forward.
It is going to be an exciting weekend of rugby in Dubai!
Stay tuned to Rugby America for results and coverage of the tournament.