HAWKEYE VIEW: THE INSIDE ON SEVENS

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:30
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EXCLUSIVE: MATT HAWKINS, RUGBY365'S SPECIALIST SEVENS COLUMNIST, TURN THE SPOTLIGHT TO A NEW LOOK AND REVAMPED IRB WORLD SERIES.

It's been an exciting week for all those fixed and glued to the rugby world. The biggest of that is the change and rebranding of the IRB to World Rugby. That's a story all in its own and changes what for us?

The IRB World Sevens Series remains unchanged for the time being.

The next big question and speculation on everyone's minds in the Sevens community surrounds a new look and revamped Series come the 2015/16 season.

That year sees the build up to the Olympic Games and will be an extravaganza that I truly believe is going to take the global rugby community by storm.

Which countries will host the nine events?

Will there be nine events or will there be more or less with the Olympics?

Will it still be the IRB Sevens World Series or something else?

Within that there is also a lot of speculation around the current countries that have a firm grasp on one of the events, like South Africa and Australia.

Will they change the host cities? A good argument could be made for both of those countries to host their event in a city like Cape Town or Melbourne respectively.

They could both take a page out of London's book. The London Sevens event that is the final stop on the current Series has done a fantastic job at the home of the RFU, Twickenham of creating a theme and an atmosphere very unique and inspiring that players have started to love and relish. For starters the teams are hosted during the week at the Chelsea Football Stadium, a facility which is just incredible.

That location provides a central location with quick and easy access to the tube and the ability to explore and enjoy all that London has to offer. Surely Cape Town and Melbourne could present similar opportunities. These cities also offer a real opportunity too, for the global game to take full effect with fans travelling to true destination cities that provide a vacation matched up with enthralling rugby that even the wife could agree on.

All of that aside, I truly hope this new shift and new brand brings about an evolution in analysis, statistics and the way it is shared.

Technology hopefully will take more of a centre stage presence and we as the viewer will be able to engage more. We are gaining moment where the pure nature of the game, technology and commercial opportunity intersect and it will revolutionize the sport.

We have to be able to drive commercial value for our sport the way so many others have, this was recently referenced in a an interview with World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper where he spoke about a key strategic piece of the brand change was to take the broadcasting of rugby in to a new era, but also to change the way fans engage with the game.

We are in an exciting age and with Dubai around the corner the World Series is only going to go from strength to strength and the entertainment, excitement and exhilaration of a Sevens weekend is primed to skyrocket in value and for the players and coaches it promises to open doors that were previously inaccessible and change platforms from which they launch their programs.

This uniquely enough brings us to our next team that we will characterize with an identity and that is Samoa. Samoa is the epitome of POWER.

They have had a lull from the year they won the entire Series. The start of this Series showed that they have started to find their stride and with Lolo Lui back in the pivot role for them, the sky is the limit.

So what displays power. Power is displayed by the way they use their size and ability to commit contact. They use their big powerful runners to attack in the 15-metre channels and then invite runners off the shoulders and on big switch lines or beat people time and time again by running over them. The Samoan's are physical and when contact is initiated, they enjoy the close quarter battle and they thrive on overpowering the opposition. As they grow in confidence this year they are going to be a real force to be reckoned with.

They are the bull in the China shop and a few years ago they made the Series their China shop and that saw them ride the bull all the way to the Championship.

The one weakness they have had and one that is shown in a stat that unfortunately outlined their demise in the final, was the number of time they kicked the ball away. That comes from a lack of patience and a frustration with not making headway through contact and being suffocated at the contact point with not being able to move the ball through the contact point.

During the Gold Coast Series event Samoa kicked the ball away 13 times in six games an average of 2.2 times per game. That is one piece of their game that they will have to take control of and build phases and persevere through the frustration.

Next week we will start seeing the squads being announced by teams and we will start to identify what stats we want to focus on going to the Dubai Series event that will start to outline a few more characteristics not only about the teams, but the Series itself.

By Matt Hawkins
@polarbearkzn

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