PREVIEW: Paris Sevens
WORLD SERIES, ROUND 10: Fiji and South Africa are in a straight shoot-out for the 2017/18 title.
The 16-team tournament gets under way at the Stade Jean Bouin on Saturday – as Fiji and South Africa battle it out in what promises to be a thrilling series title decider.
There has never been a more competitive series than this year’s – with five different winners in the first five rounds.
However, the reigning Olympic champions Fiji have hit top form recently and enter the 10th and final round in control of their destiny – following four successive tournament victories.
Fiji’s seven-point lead over second-placed South Africa means the Pacific Island nation will claim the series title if they finish in gold, silver or bronze position in Paris.
South Africa have fond memories of the Paris Sevens, having claimed the title in two of the past three years – 2017 and 2015 – while Fiji have never taken gold in Paris.
Fiji face a tough group, which includes third-placed New Zealand, Kenya and Samoa in Pool A.
Top points scorer of the series Amenoni Nasilasila will be looking to add to his tally of 299 points for Fiji.
Joe Ravouvou is back for the All Blacks Sevens having missed the previous round in London.
In Pool B South Africa are drawn to play Canada, Russia and Scotland – who give a debut to Charlie Shiel, son of former Scotland Sevens coach Graham and grandson of Dougie Morgan, both former Scottish internationals.
Pool C sees Ireland fresh from their surprise bronze medal triumph in London take on Australia, Wales and Spain.
Ireland made the most changes from last weekend in London, bringing in six new players making their world series debut.
One to watch for the Irish will be Jordan Conroy fresh from his eight-try performance in London.
In Pool D hosts France are drawn with England, Argentina and United States.
England’s all time series top try scorer Dan Norton needs five tries to reach the 300 mark and is just 11 points short of a career total of 1,500 points.
The United States will be looking to this season’s top try scorer Carlin Isles to lead the attack and add to his tally of 43 tries in the teams final appearance before the Rugby World Cup Sevens which take place in San Francisco on 20-22 July.
Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman has only one wish for the BlitzBoks in Paris – to enjoy the 10th and final tournament of the series.
“The season flew by, and it feels like yesterday when we took the field in Dubai for the first tournament,” Snyman said as the team fine-tuned their preparations for a final shot at the tournament and series title.
The BlitzBoks are the defending series champions and won in Paris last year.
“I just want the guys to go out and express themselves and play with a smile,” said Snyman, who admitted the BlitzBoks will not be looking at the final log position.
“I have seen in the past, when we do that, we are playing well. And when we play well, we are a difficult team to beat.
“How Fiji do in this tournament is out of our hands, but we can determine our own performances. We have played in a number of finals this season, but only won in Dubai, so we owe it to ourselves to finish strong here in Paris and try and win another tournament.”
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus two hours)
Australia v Wales – 09.00
Ireland v Spain – 09.22
Canada v Russia – 09.44
South Africa v Scotland – 10.06
New Zealand v Kenya – 10.28
Fiji v Samoa – 10.50
United States v Argentina – 11.12
England v France – 11.34
Australia v Spain – 11.56
Ireland v Wales – 12.18
Canada v Scotland – 12.40
South Africa v Russia – 13.02
New Zealand v Samoa – 13.24
Fiji v Kenya – 13.46
United States v France – 14.08
England v Argentina – 14.30
Wales v Spain – 17.24
Ireland v Australia – 17.46
Russia v Scotland – 18.08
South Africa v Canada – 18.30
Kenya v Samoa – 18.52
Fiji v New Zealand – 19.14
Argentina v France – 19.36
England v United States – 19.58