The Rugby World Cup Sevens kicks off in two days time in San Francisco, USA and it’ll be the Women’s competition that leads the way with fixtures starting on Friday 20th July at 18:00 UK/IRE.
It’s a whole new format for this World Cup with the knockout stages starting from the opening round. The sixten competing teams go head to head in round one with the winners remaining in the cup competition and the losers dropping into the Challenge Trophy. There are no second chances.
The fixtures for the opening round have been organised by seedings, as shown below, with the top seed playing the bottom seed and working towards the middle.
RWC SEVENS – WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
|Papua New Guinea||15|
This has resulted in the following fixtures (seeding in brackets). The matches are pretty much in sequence of seedings with the England v Ireland and USA v China matches held until the end for broadcast reasons I presume.
WOMEN’S SEVENS FIXTURE SCHEDULE: FRIDAY 20TH JULY 2018
|Team 1||Team 2|
|1||18:00||Fiji (7)||v||Spain (10)|
|2||18:22||France (6)||v||Japan (11)|
|3||18:44||Russia (4)||v||South Africa (13)|
|4||19:06||Canada (3)||v||Brazil (14)|
|5||19:28||Australia (2)||v||Papua New Guinea (15)|
|6||19:50||New Zealand (1)||v||Mexico (16)|
|7||20:12||England (8)||v||Ireland (9)|
|8||20:34||USA (5)||v||China (12)|
The vast bulk of the matches will go with seeding, with the higher seed team winning and winning comfortably at that. The only two matches that have a genuine chance of bucking that trend are England v Ireland and Fiji v Spain and these are the only fixtures where both sides are current World Series Core teams.
So we would expect New Zealand, Australia, France, Canada, USA and Russia all to progress to the next round of the Cup but who else will follow them.
In the Fuji v Spain game we would expect Fuji to progress, but Spain have a fair chance.
Fiji started slowly in the World Series, finishing in the Bottom 4 in the first two rounds. However they finished in the Top 4 in two out of the last three rounds and once they get up to speed they are a formidable and physical unit. They pushed Australia all the way in the Quarterfinals of the Paris 7s last month and will be coming into the World Cup in some form. However they are historically vulnerable in their first match of a competition.
If any team can take advantage of that vulnerability it has to be the wily Spain. If the Spanish team can match the Fijian’s physical game then they have every chance of pulling out a surprise win. In Patricia Garcia the Spanish have one of the best controlling players in the world game and if they get the ball to her often enough she might be able to keep her team in front.
I suspect it will be close but Fiji should have enough to go through to the quarterfinals of the Cup where they will face a rematch with Australia.
England stole a march on Ireland with a convincing 31 – 12 win in the pool stages of the Paris 7s last month though over the season it’s been nip and tuck between these sides.
Ireland are an incredibly hard working team and in Lucy Mulhall, Stacey Flood and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe they are the only side to have three players in the top ten “Impact Players” this season (a measure of tackles, breaks, offloads and carries). Despite this, they have struggled to get into the top eight in the World Series but in the emergence of Eve Higgins this season they now have a player that can add a considerable skill set to the hard work. It may be a year too early for the youngster but if Ireland can get the ball to her they have a chance.
However England welcome back a trio of their own superstars and in Emily Scarratt, in particular, they have one of the consummate game winners in World Rugby. The influence of Scarratt should be enough to push England past Ireland in the opening match for a likely quarter final against New Zealand.
The Ireland Women’s Squad for the 2018 Rugby World Sevens Cup is shown below.
We expect to see the following Cup Quarter Finals come the early hours of Saturday morning.
England v New Zealand
Fiji v Australia
France v Canada
USA v Russia