HAWKEYE VIEW: TWO CRUCIAL STOPS

Thu, 07 May 2015 09:22
Large scotstoun stadium 7s 630

EXCLUSIVE: RUGBY365 COLUMNIST MATT HAWKINS LOOKS AT THE LAST TWO LEGS OF THE SEVENS WORLD SERIES AND THE START OF THE OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS.

The time has come!! The culmination of hard work and preparation over the past 10 months all comes down to this.

Two weeks of gruelling Sevens rugby. The last two stops of the Sevens World Series finds the teams in Scotland, followed by the finale in England at the home of rugby, Twickenham.

For some teams these last two stops are and end to the season, which they now use to reflect, evaluate and review - as they begin their preparation for the Olympic qualification tournaments that loom large.

World Rugby officially announced the qualification tournaments and the schedule last week and it shows some teams having to move through a first qualification tournament, before the official tournament and for others its just a one off tournament.
 
What this means in the big picture, well going in to Scotland, is that there is one race that is of particular importance and on Day One.

We will see who looks set to take the title.

England was under immense pressure going in to Hong Kong and Tokyo. They had they had to claw themselves back in as part of the conversation with a top four finish and pre-qualification in to the Olympics. They stood up to the challenge and surpassed everyone's expectations by winning Tokyo and claiming fourth spot overall and displacing Australia, who were reeling and found them out of that conversation.

Going in to Glasgow this weekend, Australia and England find each other matching up in Pool play, which is a mouth-watering prospect and lays the foundation for an extremely exciting game on Day One.

This battle for fourth place overall is going to be the biggest storyline over the next two weeks - as it allows one of these teams to go away and relax and take stock of what's gone on during the season and start to focus on next year and the newly revamped World Series.

For the other they will have come so close to that freedom, but will be relegated to fight it out once again in the regional qualifiers.

Why is this a big deal and potential disaster for one of those teams?

Let me paint a picture.

Lets take two scenarios, the first would have Australia falling short and not automatically qualifying. That pushes them in to the Oceania regional qualifier in November. In that qualifier they are likely to meet Samoa as there strongest opposition and it would not be the first time that these two have met, but the winner wins something that is truly significant to changing the future of their program and writing a chapter in the history of that countries union. It is very likely that Samoa could completely take away Australia's opportunity to be at the Olympics.

The next scenario would have England falling short of the mark. England competes yearly in a European grand prix series that will form the foundation of the European regional qualification process. It is highly likely and has happened before that a team like France finds themselves on a hot streak and applies major pressure on England. They very well could knock out England and claim the European qualification spot.

What would an Olympic competition look like without the likes of Australia and Great Britain?

Its an intriguing prospect and one that really starts to shed light on just how pressured this year has been, but how pressured it will continue to be for some teams.

That prolonged pressure cooker environment can't be healthy for anyone and the weight lifted from those that Qualify in the next two weeks will be hard to articulate.

The two other battles we have to mention, is that of the Final winner and champion of the Sevens World Series.

At this point I think its going to take both legs to crown the champions and at this stage I really do believe it's a two-horse race between South Africa and Fiji.

Both have to do one thing and that is make it to the semifinal round of each event to even have a shot of being crowned. Both of these teams though can rest easy in the fact that they have already punched their ticket to Rio in 2016.

The last contest to keep your eye on as things unfold over the next two weeks is the battle to stay on the Sevens World Series.

Japan pulled a rabbit out of a hat at their home tournament managing a quarterfinal birth after Day One. This catapulted them to within firing distance of Portugal and really placed the pressure on. No doubt both teams have taken a long hard look at what the relegation story really entails and it has definitely would have definitely been a large part of the conversation and preparation process for these last two legs.

It's been a thrilling year to say the least and consistency has been the key message all the way through this year and will be clutch going in to the last two weeks. We'll be back next week, reviewing and outlining what has taken place and we'll set the stage for the final event of the Sevens World Series 2014/15.

By Matt Hawkins
@polarbearkzn
@rugby365com

 

 
 
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