Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hong Kong 7s Day 2 Recap

It was another late night/early morning full of rugby 7s watching the action from Hong Kong. The USA had an interesting first match on Day 2, taking the field against Scotland just as the rain began to pour and, despite being a mid-day kickoff, it looked like the dead of night with the darkness. Both teams had to adjust to conditions and ultimately Scotland did the better job with tightened continuity yielding crisp passing and a 15-10 win.

The game turned in the first half when Danny Barrett from the USA powered down to about 3 meters from the try line and popped a pass from the ground.... straight to a Scotland player for an intercept that was returned 95 meters the other way. Whether it was poor communication, poor support, or a poor decision, the result yielded a 10 (or 12 given USA's accurate conversions this series) point swing the other way in a game that was decided by a mere 5 points. Also noticeable - lineouts continued to be an issue for the Eagles squad and in the game of 7s, a failure to secure set pieces and take advantage of penalties (as in they kicked away to touch only to turnover the ball in the lineout) leaves many unscored points on the board. Against teams like South Africa and Fiji this leads to efficient turnover tries and must be addressed if the Eagles want to earn their way into the Cup rounds rather than hope for pool play magic and positive point differentials. Fortunately this is a fixable issue.

Other games to note included Wales-Kenya that went down to the wire, Portugal-Argentina if you're into a lot of kicking (I found it rather boring but some people like the territory game) and anything Fiji as they lit up their opposing beating Sri Lanka 56-0 in one of their pool play games and scored 141 points while conceding only 12. England proved somewhat careless again with penalties and a yellow card for a silly infringement, but as in Tokyo they scored when it mattered and came away undefeated in pool play.

In fact, there were an unusual amount of cards in this tournament as Samoa later held on to beat Scotland in the final minute despite a 7 v 6 advantage to the Scots, Portugal had a carded player that doomed them against Argentina,  Sri Lanka received a yellow vs Fiji, South Africa received one against Spain for jersey pulling (after Spain had been warned for the same thing) and France had 3 players sent to the sin bin vs Australia. Perhaps it was the rain?

As the Cup round kicks off there should be some amazing games played. Australia's coach Mick O'Connor is coaching his final Hong Kong 7s and their side has been impressive. Canada is also strong, fast, and reliable in making their 4th Cup Quarterfinals and could move as high as 6th in the iRB standings as Argentina, Samoa and Kenya in the Bowl. New Zealand is on a bit of a tear and looking to make up for their 4th place finish at Tokyo 7s. And Fiji looks nearly unstoppable - but the Eagles had their numbers in Tokyo and could prove more than just a roadbump. That game is at 11:28pm EST.

In the Qualifier matches Japan, Russia, Italy and Hong Kong advance to the semifinals. The winner gets a core spot in the next year's series; my money is on Japan to take it! But the home side Hong Kong has looked excellent too. Russia wasn't as impressive in the game I watched vs Zimbabwe as they had quite a few ball handling errors and played a little slowly. Italy is a team I'd keep an eye on in coming seasons too!

Here are the iRB recaps.... I didn't make it past 4am due to all the hour breaks and the earlier rain delay in the action. Hong Kong 7s with their set up makes for some long days of game play and as a player in training myself, I just couldn't answer the alarm set for 5:15am when I had only shut my eyes at 3:50am. Thankfully I was able to pause the iRB stream and should be able to catch up on a few key matches before the action tonight! Highlights from the main draw are here, from the qualifier here.

Australia impress on day two in Hong Kong
(IRB.COM) Saturday 29 March 2014
 Australia impress on day two in Hong Kong
Australia play Canada, England meet South Africa, Fiji await USA 
and New Zealand face Wales in the Cup quarters in Hong Kong
By Tom Chick in Hong Kong
Australia were one of four sides to win all three of their pool matches to secure their place in the quarter finals of the 2014 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.  

Michael O'Connor, who is coaching in his final Hong Kong Sevens, saw his side beat the current Series leaders South Africa 10-7 with tries from Ed Jenkins and Greg Jeloudev to set up a quarter final with Canada who will compete in their fourth successive Cup competition. 

Defending champions Fiji beat Kenya 43-5 to top Pool B, after Vatemo Ravouvou had earlier scored 21 points in their 56-0 defeat of Sri Lanka, and will face USA who snuck through on points difference ahead of Samoa and Scotland as Pool D runners-up. 

In Pool C England's Dan Bibby scored 14 points in their win over Portugal before Dan Norton added two tries in the pool decider with Canada, a match they won 14-7,  and they meet Neil Powell's South Africa in the quarters in So Kon Po.  

New Zealand beat Samoa 26-7 and USA 17-7 on day two to book their progress with a 100% record and they will meet Wales after Sam Cross scored at the death to give Wales a win over Kenya, before they beat Sri Lanka. 

It is their first quarter final since the second round in Dubai but the biggest cheer of the day came as Mithun Hapugodage scored both of Sri Lanka's tries in their 47-12 defeat.
In the Bowl Argentina will play Spain, France await Portugal, Sri Lanka meet Samoa as they still look for a first win as the non-core side competing in Hong Kong and Scotland face Kenya.  

Ben Ryan, Fiji coach: "Two long days but the boys are staying focused on the field which is the most important thing. It is great to be here, you have to be careful as you don’t want to over-egg things. We try to keep things simple and we make sure we plan well. There are lots of distractions and lots of support, so you try to cocoon the boys a little bit so they can do what they need to do on the field. Good to have Wais with me, he adds to that motivation side of things, so we’re making a good team today.” 

Mick O’Connor, Australia coach: “10-7 so very tight, but I thought we played well. We always have a tough game against them and I am happy with that win. They beat us in New Zealand in similar conditions, but this time we had the edge. I think these boys continue to get better the more they play with each other and the older they get and now we're looking forward to Canada tomorrow.” 

Wales physio Dan Jones, on the short turnaround between their two final pool matches: “What you saw there was the boys digging in. I think there was about an hour recovery between matches so it was all about a quick recovery drink and keeping them warm before that match. The key now is to get some food on board, back to the hotel, ice baths, some treatment and plenty of rest.” 

Ben Gollings, leading-points scorer in history of World Series and former Sri Lanka coach: “I went to have a chat with them (Sri Lanka) earlier. It is all to gain and nothing to lose being here. I told them to give it everything and make the most of the occasion because they’ll get a lot out of it and they could be here in the qualifier next year. 

"Fiji have turned up red hot here, South Africa the same, so it is all to play for. My home team England, I’d love to see them in the final and New Zealand will be buoyed to reach it so lots to look forward to.”
Gavin Hastings, HSBC Ambassador: “Unbelievable here. We were just waiting for the heavens to open and as soon as Scotland hit the field it rained! Good performance from them though. You sense the opportunity these teams have here, that is what is all about.” 

George Gregan, HSBC Ambassador: “Not really the conditions you find in Australia. That was ridiculous. I looked at Ben Gollings, and we couldn’t believe how dark it was at midday! For Mick O’Connor this is a really special tournament but it is time for a change ahead of the Olympics.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hong Kong 7s Qualifier Update

Besides the main iRB tournament, Hong Kong is also host to a 12 team qualifier featuring the likes of Japan, Italy, Russia, Zimbabwe, Uruguay, Hong Kong, The Cook Islands, Chile, American Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and more. One of these teams will take over a core team spot for the 2014/2015 iRB Sevens series- crucial for anyone attempting to qualify for the Olympics. After last weekend's showing at Tokyo 7s Japan is one of the favorites. I have to say I'm intrigued with the Italian side. As a country competing in the Six Nations, it would seem a transition to rugby 7s core status is natural. But then again, champions Ireland don't field a rugby 7s side at all.

Another interesting team to watch is Uruguay as they've been featured on the circuit before; I can remember them competing at USA 7s in years past. Russia had a strong showing as hosts of the World University games and has competed in the men's Elite bracket of the LVI each of the last 3 years. Hosts Hong Kong also look strong, as do Zimbabwe who remain undefeated, and the quarterfinals should yield some thrilling match ups. Now if I only I could find a stream for these games as well!

Following the updates on the iRB website shows that Uruguay and Japan win their final pool play mayches Day 2. Japan just beat the Cook Islands 26-7 and Uruguay was victorious 28-5 over Trinidad & Tobago. Italy is playing Hong Kong at the moment - should be the best match up of the remaining pool play tests! Undefeated Russia takes on similarly 2-0 Zimbabwe soon as well!

Highlights from Day 1 of action are here.

 More on the tournament from the iRB:

Five unbeaten in World Series qualifier

(IRB.COM) Friday 28 March 2014
 Five unbeaten in World Series qualifier
Andy Vilk's Italy won both of their opening matches in the World Series qualifier in Hong Kong
Japan, hosts Hong Kong, Italy, Russia and Zimbabwe all went unbeaten on day one of the World Series qualifier at the Hong Kong Sevens. 

One of the 12 teams competing in the qualifier will join the core sides on next season's HSBC Sevens World Series, and several teams put their hands up as favourite on day one at the Hong Kong Stadium. 

Lote Tuqiri scored two tries in each of Japan's wins as last week's hosts scored 65 unanswered points against Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago while the hosts beat Tunisia and American Samoa.  

Yiu Kam Shing scored twice in their 19-7 defeat of Tunisia before Rowan Varty added a brace in their 38-7 win against Hong Kong debutants American Samoa.  

Stephan Hunduza scored a hat-trick and Lenience Tambwera scored 19 points as Zimbabwe beat Barbados 49-5 before they narrowly beat Chile 19-14, Handuza adding two more tries.  

Andy Vilk's Italy beat American Samoa 31-12 and Tunisia 17-12 with Kaine Roberton scoring the winner in the latter while Evgeny Nepeyvoda was the hero for Russia on day one, scoring twice in their 40-10 win against Barbados and the winner as they snatched a dramatic 17-12 win in their opening match against Chile.  

Liam Middleton, Zimbabwe coach: “It (what it will take to win the competition) is winning games like this. We were strong in the first game and this was an even contest. To win the competition you need to win these tight contests so I am chuffed we have won this one.” 

Liam Middleton, Zimbabwe coach: “It (what it will take to win the competition) is winning games like this. We were strong in the first game and this was an even contest. To win the competition you need to win these tight contests so I am chuffed we have won this one.” 

Match-winner Kane Robertson on Italy's 100% winning start: "Tomorrow will be very tough against Hong Kong but we'll do our best to get a good result." 

Gabriel Puig, Uruguay captain: “It was important for us to change the result of the first match. We thought we could win this match (against the Cook Islands), now we have to think about the match tomorrow. Happy to be back, this is the best championship” 

Jamie Hood, Hong Kong captain: “Much happier with that one. Tunisia were a tough team to start with this morning. We’ve won both of our two matches here but the second day gets a lot more serious and hopefully we can continue on.” 

Lomano Lemeki, Japan: “Good start for us to get the win. Uruguay are a strong team. We played well but we’re trying to get used to the humidity and the heat, so we just need to make sure we’re ready for our remaining pool matches." 

Andy Vilk, Italy coach: “Not sure I like that tag (one of the favourites) but I am happy with how we started but disappointed with those two tries at the end. Happy with 31 points and a performance to build on.”

USA and Canada Open Hong Kong 7s with Wins

In the first game of the main draw ay Hong Kong 7s, the USA Men lived up to expectations with a first game win over Samoa 26-12, only their 2nd time on this iRB Sevens World Series in which they've on the first match. Canada followed suit with an emphatic 35-7 victory over Portugal. See below for the recaps and best of luck to both sides on Day 2!

From USA Rugby:

Eagles start strong in Hong Kong with defeat of Samoa

Eagles start strong in Hong Kong with defeat of Samoa

HONG KONG, China – The Men’s Eagles Sevens continued on their good run of form at the Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Friday with a dominant 26-12 win against Samoa at Hong Kong Stadium.

Danny Barrett wasted no time in getting the Eagles on the scoreboard in the first minute. After the Eagles won the kickoff, Barrett received the ball wide on the wing and stepped over one tackle before fending off another for the try. Madison Hughes kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead with less than a minute gone.
The Eagles won the next restart, as well, and worked the ball towards the Samoan try line, showing the continuity of a seasoned team with four of the starting seven – Barrett, Garrett Bender, Pono Haitsuka and Hughes – combining for just 14 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series tournament appearances. Zack Test, with an Eagles-high 42 appearances going into Hong Kong Sevens, scored the team’s second try with a fend of his own in the middle of the field and a dive into the corner. The Eagles led 12-0 with two tries in as many minutes.

Samoa responded in the sixth minute through Sani Niue. Following an Eagles penalty and a lineout deep in attacking territory, Samoa moved the ball quickly to Niua, who was tackled ahead of the try line but managed to reach over just before Hughes’ try-saving swipe attempt. The conversion was successful to bring Samoa within a try at 12-7.

Samoa got the ball back after the restart and moved down the field with less than a minute remaining in the half. A chip-kick attempt was blocked by Hughes at the Eagles’ 22, and a fortunate bounce set up the Dartmouth man for an 80-meter try. He kicked his own conversion to give the Eagles a 19-7 halftime lead.
The Eagles gave away possession in a dangerous position early in the second half when Nick Edwards dropped a Test pass right in front of the posts. Samoa quickly moved the ball from a set piece once again and Kelly Meafau found the corner of the try zone to bring the score to 19-12.

The Eagles were no strangers to comebacks having overturned a 17-0 halftime deficit against Samoa last weekend at Tokyo Sevens, but Matt Hawkins’ team protected the ball well in the final frame and were justly rewarded with a try in the 13th minute. Mike Te’o sent a kick deep into Samoa’s half before his opposite number replicated the act to Hughes. Hughes set up his own chip-and-chase and threw the ball up for an onrushing Test to give the Eagles the 26-12 win.

The win marks just the second time the Eagles have opened a tournament with a win this season, with the previous coming last weekend in Tokyo. The Eagles will face Scotland in the second pool match of the seventh stop of the 2013-14 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series at 11:34 P.M. ET. Follow live match updates with @USARugby on Twitter.

Men's Eagles Sevens| v Samoa
1. Mike Palefau (@ 10')
2. Nick Edwards
3. Danny Barrett
4. Garrett Bender
5. Zack Test
6. Brett Thompson
7. Marcus Satavu (@ 12')
8. Andrew Durutalo (@ 8')
9. Pono Haitsuka
10. Mike Te'o (@ 12')
11. Madison Hughes
12. Ryan Matyas (@ 14')

Men's Eagles Sevens | 26
Tries: Barrett, Test (2), Hughes
Conversions: Hughes (3)
Men's Eagles Sevens | Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
v Scotland - Friday, March 28 - 11:34 P.M. ET

From Rugby Canada:

Friday, March 28, 2014 - Submitted by Rugby Canada Communications
Canada's Men's side got their Hong Kong Sevens campaign off to a strong start on Friday as they overcame Portugal 35-7, with tougher tests to come on Day Two.

Geraint John's outfit were impressive as they put five tries past their opponents and will enter that aforementioned pool run-in, against Argentina and England, with good confidence as they look to make a fourth straight Cup appearance on the Series.

Canada 35-7 Portugal
Line-up: 3 Nanyak Dala, 4 John Moonlight, 5 Conor Trainor, 6 Sean Duke, 7 Phil Mack, 9 Nathan Hirayama, 11 Harry Jones

Canada opened their pool account in Hong Kong with a healthy 35-7 victory over Portugal, with a +28 points return a key positive alongside the Day One triumph.

It wasn't easy and in the second-half the game was scoreless for six minutes, but Canada had arguably done enough in the opening stanza to secure the victory.

Tries came via John Moonlight (2), Nanyak Dala and Conor Trainor before Sean White had the final say in the match, scoring in added time to give the scoreline more weight going into Day Two when Canada will take on Argentina and England.

Moonlight had got the ball rolling inside a minute when his power and pace came to the fore 25 metres out, with Nathan Hirayama's successful extras making it 7-0.

Canada's second try arrived two minutes later as superb phase play led to Dala slipping through Portuguese clutches before running in close to the left upright.

It was now 14-0 before the impressive Trainor continued his great form of last week in Tokyo with a crossing of his own, bouncing off several tacklers to make it 21-0. However, Portugal's Pedro Bettencourt cut the gap to 14 at the half-time break.

Canada regrouped in the interval and it was Moonlight who set them on their way once again, this time using his strength from close range to claim a brace near the posts. Hirayama's conversion put John's charges into a comfortable 28-7 lead.

Then followed a period whereby neither team could cross the whitewash. That was until the Canadians' persistence saw reward as replacement White got in on the act with a late try that put the icing on their opening day cake at Hong Kong Stadium.

Canada's Men's Hong Kong Sevens
March 28-30
Day One

Canada 35-7 Portugal

Day Two

Canada v Argentina:
Saturday, March 29 - 12:18 local time
Saturday, March 29 - 00:18 ET
Friday, March 28 - 21:18 PT

Canada v England:
Saturday, March 29 - 18:32 local time
Saturday, March 29 - 06:32 ET
Saturday, March 29 - 03:32 PT

All games on the HSBC Sevens World Series can be watched LIVE at!

Canada’s Roster for Hong Kong - (Club, CRC Team) Hometown, Province

Nanyak Dala - (Castaway Wanderers RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Sean Duke - (UVic Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Lucas Hammond - (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Ciaran Hearn - (Castaway Wanderers RFC/The Rock) Conception Bay South, NL
Nathan Hirayama, Captain - (UVic Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Harry Jones - (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
John Moonlight - (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
Chauncey O’Toole - (Castaway Wanderers/Atlantic Rock) Belleisle, NB
Mike Scholz - (Castaway Wanderers RFC/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Conor Trainor - (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Sean White - (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Phil Mack - (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC

Players Unavailable for Selection:

Connor Braid - (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Justin Douglas - (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Pat Parfrey - (James Bay AA/Atlantic Rock) St. John’s, NL

Senior Men’s Team Staff:

Geraint John - Head Coach
Morgan Williams - Assistant Coach
Danielle Mah - Physiotherapist
Calum Ramsay - Performance Analyst
Lorna Barry - Strength and Conditioning Coach
Brian Hunter - Manager

Canada’s Men’s Sevens Program is proudly sponsored by Sport Canada and Own the Podium. 

Serevi Rugby Residency Camp Applications Open

 Via Rugby Magazine:

USA Rugby & Serevi open application process for Residency Programs
Colleges - Camps & Clinics

As part of the USA Rugby Academy, Serevi Rugby® has opened the application process for its 2014 Elite Residency Programs coming in Summer 2014.  For athletes aged 15+, the Elite Residence Programs are multi-day, immersive training sessions at a destination facility with approximately 50 other aspiring athletes taking the next step in the developmental pathway towards the U.S. National Teams.

Interested players are encouraged to apply to attend the age appropriate camp, while some players have already been invited through the talent ID portions of USA Rugby Academy by Serevi’s High Performance Camps this spring around the country.

Based on integrated training from seasoned international experts in both rugby 15s and 7s, players will be receive high performance rugby education including on-field skill development and attack/defense decision making, as well as off-field training including nutrition seminars, age/development specific strength and conditioning, mental skill building, game analysis video sessions, "prehab" sessions for injury prevention and muscle activation, and recovery techniques to maximize training time.

Through a Serevi and World Rugby Shop partnership, scholarships will be given to ensure identified "high talent" players can attend the Elite Residential Camps.

Serevi and USA Rugby will host four Residency Programs this summer including:

Collegiate & Adult MenAugust 4th – 8th, Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado
Led by USA Men’s Assistant Coach Justin Fitzpatrick

Collegiate & Adult WomenJune 16th - 20th, Olympic Training Center in San Diego
Led by USA Women’s 7s Head Coach Ric Suggitt, USA Men’s and Women’s Assistant Coach Richie Walker, and Serevi Coach Emilie Bydwell.

High School BoysJune 21st – 25th, Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista, Calif.
Led by Waisale Serevi, USA Men’s 7s Head Coach Matt Hawkins and USA Men’s and Women’s Assistant Coach Richie Walker

High School GirlsJuly 7th – 11th, Olympic Training Center in San Diego
Led by USA Women’s 7s Head Coach Ric Suggitt, USA Men’s and Women’s Assistant Coach Richie Walker, and Serevi Coach Emilie Bydwell.

For more information on the Residency Program and to apply, players should visit:

Full Roster Notes for at Hong Kong 7s

If you're up at 5am like I am (or some earlier time on the West Coast of the US) - here's a quick refresher on the squads/pools/rosters for Hong Kong 7s courtesy of the iRB:

Hong Kong Sevens: Final squad news

(IRB.COM) Thursday 27 March 2014
 Hong Kong Sevens: Final squad news
Two tries in Hong Kong will make Kenya's Collins Injera the third-highest try-scorer in IRB Sevens rugby
The final squads have been declared by all 28 teams - 16 in the main Cup draw and 12 in the World Series qualifier - set to compete at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens on 28-30 March. 

Here we round up the squad ins and outs among the core teams since last weekend in Tokyo, and provide full details of all 28 squads. 

Defending tournament champions Fiji make two changes from the side that won in Tokyo last weekend, with Joeli Lutumailagi and Samu Saqiwa replacing Jasa Veremalua and Leo Naikasau.  

Kenya name an unchanged squad from Tokyo, leaving vice captain Collins Injera on the verge of overtaking South Africa Sevens great Fabian Juries to become the third-highest try scorer in the history of the Series. Currently Juries is on 179, one ahead of Injera. Ben Gollings (220) and Santiago Gomez Cora (230) are next in Injera's sights. 

Influential playmaker Lee Williams returns for Wales alongside Will Thomas, who has also recovered from injury. The pair replace the injured Rhys Jones and Owen Jenkins, who misses out on selection.
"It's great to have Lee back in the side – he hasn't played since picking up an injury over Christmas and he will take over the captaincy from James Davies,” said Wales Sevens head coach Gareth Williams. 

Asia's third-ranked side Sri Lanka name eight debutants at this level. 

Former IRB Sevens Player of the Year Cecil Afrika has returned to the South Africa squad. Afrika, who has now recovered fully from a hamstring niggle, replaces Steven Hunt and his addition will further strengthen the Blitzboks in the crucial positions of flyhalf and sweeper. South Africa lead the Series heading into round seven, having made five consecutive finals. 

“It’s great to have Cecil back because he was in very good form before his injury. It is unfortunate that Steven Hunt has to make way, but Cecil is a very important player for us. He will assist Branco (du Preez) and Justin (Geduld) in the key positions of playmaker and sweeper, which are important attacking positions,” said coach, Neil Powell. 

Australia coach Michael O'Connor has called up Paul Asquith to replace Allan Fa'alava'au for the tournament in So Kon Po. Fa'alava'au has flown back to Australia to undergo surgery on the shoulder he first hurt in Wellington, round five of the Series, and has been ruled out for the remainder of this season. 
"I'm really looking forward to Hong Kong," said head coach O'Connor. "I love this tournament, but sadly it will be my last opportunity as head coach of the Australian team to lift a trophy that has eluded us for almost a quarter of a century." 

France bring in Brian Dimeck and Leo Ghirard in place of Julien Jane and Steeve Barry, while Spain are unchanged from Tokyo. 

England name an unchanged squad from Tokyo, which means that forward James Rodwell earns his 50th Sevens cap, having made the squad for 50 consecutive events. 

After finishing in the top eight at last weekend’s the Tokyo Sevens, Canada have strengthened for Hong Kong by replacing Tokyo debutant Jake Webster with experienced half back Phil Mack. As part of their preparations, Canada also coached over 100 children in Hong Kong - photos at

Argentina are without Lucas Alcacer but do not name a replacement, so go into the tournament with 11 players, while Portugal bring in proven try-scorer Duarte Moreira in the place of Manuel Vilela. 

New Zealand are unchanged for Hong Kong, meaning that Gillies Kaka has recovered from the knock that hampered him in Tokyo. 

USA are also unchanged from the side that reached a first Cup quarter-final of the season in Japan. 

Scotland make three changes from Tokyo and are bolstered by the inclusion of three Glasgow Warriors players. Forward James Eddie, Mark Bennett and Lee Jones are involved, replacing Joseva Nayacavou, Neil Herron and Alex Glashan. 

“We’re delighted to bring in Lee and Mark who have been involved on the circuit this season already and James, who was one of our first Scotland Sevens professionals before moving back to the XV-a-side game. In Tokyo we were disappointed, so I have selected a squad that I think can put in the performances we require this weekend.  Selection was hard as everyone has trained well, but having an extended squad has been very helpful." 

Samoa are unchanged, Levi Asifa'amatala their most experienced player with 23 events in an otherwise relatively novice squad. 

IRB Sevens: 'Club 50'
Uale Mai, Sam - 79 tournaments
Ben Gollings, Eng - 70
DJ Forbes, NZ - 64*
Lote Raikabula, NZ - 63*
Santiago Gomez Cora, Arg - 61
Tomasi Cama, NZ - 59*
Frankie Horne, SA - 57*
Andrew Turnbull, Sco - 55*
Horace Otieno, Ken - 54*
Humphrey Kayange, Ken - 53*
Simaika Mikaele, Sam - 53
Lavin Asego, Ken - 50*
Amasio Raoma, NZ - 50
James Rodwell, Eng - 50*
* still active on Series

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eagles Mens 7s Tokyo Recap and Hong Kong 7s Preview

This is American Rugby did a great recap/preview of the Eagles performance at Tokyo 7s and what they need to accomplish to make the Cup Round again at Hong Kong 7s. Given the performance last weekend, especially with Samoa uncharacteristically tanking (paraphrased from my tweets from Tokyo 7s: "I don't like Samoa's body language going into the Shield Final. They look listless and disinterested". They not only lost that game, they were shut out.

Thus, the Eagles have a great chance at a repeat in the top 8. With the Hong Kong format similar to Las Vegas's three day festivities, the Eagles build in difficulty as the tournament progresses. The US kicks off against Samoa at 6:24 EST Friday morning. Second is Scotland at 8:34pm EST -a team we need to beat to establish our 7s consistency with this young squad as they sit above us in the standings. Scotland is a beatable program and will be a fantastic test to see how this team has grown.

The Eagles get to save New Zealand for last at 6:10am EST Saturday and this will be an NZ7s team out for redemption after losing to both Fiji and England to close out Tokyo 7s. This is my team to win it all this weekend. Also watch out for Ambrose Curtis.... at some point I tweeted "Curtis has legs and knows how to use them". (I'm not responsible for the content of my late night rugby tweets.)

Last weekend I was extremely impressed with the re-emergence of Zach Test, named to the tournament Dream Team, as a finisher and leader. Brett Thompson complimented him well as another try-scoring force. Danny Barret emerged as a big beast on the pitch, muscling tries and wrapping some big hits. Alex Goff called him a Grouchmonger.... not even sure what that means but he defined it with his play.

Captain Nick Edwards had a solid weekend on defense with one try-saving chase down (I believe against Australia, could be wrong as it was a long weekend of late nights). Garrett Bender was reliable and workmanlike on the field; I can recall a fantastic try saving tackle from behind against Canada in the Plate Semi. Mike Te'o and Mike Palefau were huge impact subs with Palefau scoring seconds after his entrance into the Canada match. Madison Hughes was fantastic kicking and also had an amazing try in the Canada game. Almost any time our team needed a score to counter our oppositions' points we did and rarely let momentum swing out of control.

Staying up late to watch/tweet the games also allowed for some good chats regarding tactics and play as well as post-game breakdowns with noted 7s coaches around the US, some good interactions with the French, Fijian and South African twitter accounts as well as rugby 7s fans in New Zealand, Canada and beyond, and conversations as well with the USA players via facebook. I may not be able to repeat as well with Hong Kong and its 3 day schedule but shall try my best!

Other notes:

I really enjoyed watching Japan play. They're a fun side with solid skills and have some speed in Jamie Henry (Who may have had the try of the tournament. See for yourself here) and Lomano Lemeki.

New Zealand vs Fiji in the Cup Semifinals was the most enjoyable, thrilling, rugby 7s spectacle I've ever seen. I could watch it again and again and never get bored. So much skill and improvisation and teams playing exciting rugby!

Wales vs Scotland in the Bowl Final was another thrilling matchup for very different reasons. The game was "slower" but more technically sound with less turnovers and more solid rugby tactics. Scotland is high-passing team and can wear a side down with the constant keep-away. But Wales never dies, and also did some stomping along the way - and the game provides a thrilling ending.

France is a team that rarely had the ball but any time they did get it, they scored. France is dangerous and if they can figure out how to create more turnovers, their efficiency on attack is deadly. The USA learned that in their pool play loss but thank goodness we had that lesson as it shored up our defense for Day 2.

Canada should have beaten England in their Cup Quarterfinal. They deserved that game and England were not playing well. But good teams find a way and not only did England win in the final seconds, they took that momentum later into Day 2 and beat New Zealand in the 3rd/4th place game. England was physical, brawling at times, and seemed to get into teams' heads. I was impressed with Tom Mitchell's play.

Fiji. Fiji. Fiji. This tournament was all about their team and it's blend of style, finesse, it's age with Setefano Cakau and the youth with Waisea Nacuqu scoring the final try.Viriviri was my favorite player with his deadly speed. And I had tears running down my face watching their tears and pride as the national anthem played.

Not to take away from South Africa at all who also made the final. RSA earned their spot and they are another team that's deadly with ball in hand - most notably when they have space to run. They committed a lot of errors against the USA but still came out with the win. In the moments our defense wasn't "set" - on the quick tap penalties, kickoffs, and when they had some off/unexpected passes that allowed for more open field space, RSA scored. Senatla is a huge threat with ball in hand and Brown was all brawn. Their team singing the national anthem - actually singing - instigated my waterworks before the final.

And one final note - nearly every team scores off of penalites and scrums. It seemed that these sevens sides were putting tries in at a 2:1 rate off ref's whistles as compared to rugby play that involved multiple passes/phases. In looking at stats last week as well as after each game, it seems the real key to 7s is to not commit penalties. Play smart and patient and don't give away the easy try!

Here's more from This is American Rugby:

Hong Kong 7s Preview: Eagles Look To Ride Momentum

The Eagles will certainly be proud of making the Plate final last week in Tokyo but they won't feel satisfied unless they couple that with a strong run in Hong Kong this week. Several things are going in the team's favor as they head into the tournament. First, they have traditionally played better on the second week of a two week swing. More time together and more hit outs against different teams other than themselves tends to help them shake off the cobwebs. Second, they are in a difficult pool but one in which they can advance. Lastly, the team has confidence from getting their first positive result of the season.

All told, it could be another strong tournament. However, Tokyo was just one of six tournaments so far and the Eagles still have questions to answer. They beat Samoa last week but there is no guarantee of doing the same thing this week. New Zealand are New Zealand while the U.S. hasn't exactly beaten Scotland this year. Hong Kong will be a crucial turning point in the season and after this weekend we will know if Tokyo was an aberration or if it was a positive sign of things to come.

Take the jump to read more.
The Squad

Head coach Matt Hawkins hasn't made any changes to his roster from Tokyo. That's not unexpected and only an injury would have forced a change. One of the most interesting things from Tokyo was that Hawkins elected to start the same players in all six matches--Nick Edwards, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Zack Test, Brett Thompson, Pono Haitsuka, and Madison Hughes. What worked well as each player stuck to their role and didn't try to do too much but were also willing to step up to the challenge when needed. It is also a very balanced side combining good size in the forwards, shiftiness at halfback, and the right amount of pace on the wings. Teams, especially Samoa, will have had a new look at this group and will have made adjustments. That means the Eagles will have to be ready to adapt themselves.

Outside of the starting group only Mike Palefau, Andrew Durutalo, and Mike Te'o played significant minutes. They also filled the roles well with Durutalo being especially effective off the bench. It will be interesting to see if Marcus Satavu and Ryan Matyas see more time this tournament as fatigue could become an issue.

Squad: Mike Palefau, Nick Edwards, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Zack Test, Brett Thompson, Marcus Satavu, Andrew Durutalo, Pono Haitsuak, Mike Te'o, Madison Hughes, Ryan Matyas

The Opponents

Samoa (6:24 a.m. et/3:24 a.m. pt, Friday): The U.S. were down against Samoa 19-0 at one point last week and then stormed back in a very strong second half to earn the win. They did it by being more proactive than Samoa and controlling the ball by winning restarts. They also took advantage of the number of new players on the Samoan squad. They will have to do that again this week but given how Samoa looked last week you have to think the U.S. stands a good chance of winning.

Scotland (8:34 p.m. et/5:34 p.m. pt, Friday): As typical Scotland beat some of the minnows on the circuit while losing to top teams on their way to the Bowl final. The U.S. has played Scotland twice this season losing 19-10 in the Gold Coast and then drawing 19-19 in Wellington. Like the U.S., Scotland has only made the Cup quarterfinals once this season. They have the tools to do well but are very beatable. If the U.S. want to move up in the rankings they have to be beating Scotland consistently.

New Zealand (6:10 a.m. et/3:10 p.m. pt, Saturday): The All Blacks looked as beatable as they have all season in Tokyo but still came in fourth place. A first ever win over New Zealand would be huge for the Eagles but isn't likely to happen. That said, the U.S. needs to watch the scoreline. If they draw another side it could come down to point differential.

Keys to the Tournament

Possession: The Eagles was outstanding at this last week. They protected the ball when they had it by not giving away a poor pass or a silly penalty. They were also very strong in the air, something they have lacked all season. 7s is a simple game. If you have the ball you are going to score and if you don't you won't. The U.S. must find a way to keep possession once again.

Conversions: For the first time in ages the Eagles made more conversions than they missed. Much of that credit goes to Hughes and Teo but that is just glossing over the issue. Conversions increased because the U.S. were getting tries in better positions. They weren't being pushed to the outside as they had all year.

Limit Conversions: On the flip side, the Eagles did not give up many conversions as a result of chasing opponents down and forcing them to score in the corner. Forcing difficult conversions could be the difference between making the Cup quarterfinals and missing out.

Stay Confident: As mentioned, there are lots of reasons for the U.S. to be confident. They played well. They need to keep that confidence. If they go down against Samoa early than they need to do like they did last week and not lose focus.

Beat Samoa: The U.S. can't go into the Scotland match needing to beat both Scotland and New Zealand to make the Cup quarterfinals. The odds of that happening are slim. The U.S. must beat Samoa first, just like last week, to set up a do or die match with Scotland. That is a much easier route than going against the All Blacks.

Strive for More: Last week was a good performance but there were still plenty of things the team needs to fix. They can't get complacent and need to feel like they most continually improve.

The Takeaway

The Eagles showed their potential last week and now we get to see if it is starting to permanently break through. Veterans like Zack Test, Brett Thompson, and Andrew Durutalo stepped up big time last week while the team also got solid performances from Danny Barrett and Madison Hughes. All of those performances are bright signs. However, without another solid showing this week questions will continue to be asked. A win over Scotland is a must while a win over Samoa is a "should." In the end we think the Eagles are coming into the tournament with the right attitude and will beat both Samoa and Scotland to make the Cup quarterfinals.

USA Women's 7s Roster Named for China 7s

While Hong Kong 7s is taking place right now with Canada women opening up their tournament with a win 19-5 win over Hong Kong, the USA women opted to stay home and train further for China's Guangzhou 7s in April. The roster named this week features even more new names replacing some veteran players and Atlanta 7s sensation Jessica Javelet who is unavailable due to a prior commitment.

The Eagles Women's 7s squad features 2 recent Olympians in Elana Meyer and Alev Kelter, adding more crossover success stories to the Eagles roster. It's also worth noting that Lauren Doyle in the iRB photograph below is a rugby crossover athlete as well, competing in college track & field while being recruited.converted to rugby at Eastern Illinois University.

Here's a peek into the selections from both USA Rugby and the iRB Women's Sevens World Series site:

Suggitt selects Eagles for Guangzhou Sevens

Suggitt selects Eagles for Guangzhou Sevens
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Women’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Ric Suggitt has announced the 12-player roster for the upcoming Guangzhou Sevens, the fourth leg of the 2013-14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.

The Eagles will play Canada, Russia and France in Pool C in China April 5-6. Amelia Villines, in just her fourth Series tournament, will captain the team.

Making the squad for the first time is Alev Kelter, Elana Meyers and Shaina Turley, who have each earned Residency contracts at the Olympic Training Center in the last three months.

“Shaina is a physically and mentally tough competitor,” Suggitt said. “Shaina has a hard work ethic and she will have some specific roles to fulfill in attack and defense during the tournament.

“Elana and Alev have demonstrated enough this past month and now they will be thrown right into the major competition.”

Jessica Javelet, the Eagles’ top scorer at Atlanta 7s and Sao Paulo Sevens in February, will not travel with the team to Guangzhou due to prior commitments.

The Eagles were in the same pool as the northern neighbors in Atlanta and had a second match in the tournament’s Cup Quarterfinal, though both matches were losses for Suggitt’s squad. Russia dealt the Eagles a loss in the teams’ only meeting at Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens last November.

Canada and Russia sit in third and fourth in the Series standings, respectively, above the seventh-placed Eagles.

“We need to look after the ball on the field,” Suggitt said. “We need to execute our decisions and make certain we stay confident no matter what happens. A lot can happen in 14 minutes, we now have to make it happen for us.

“There is no doubt what we have to do to be successful in China: go there in the correct frame of mind and be prepared to play six matches with full intensity.”

Kickoff from Guangzhou Uni Town Stadium is scheduled for 10:00 P.M. ET Friday, April 4, between the Eagles and Canada. Watch the Eagles live on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series website and follow live match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.

Women's Eagles Sevens | Guangzhou Sevens
1. Victoria Folayan
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Jillion Potter
4. Deven Owsiany
5. Amelia Villines
6. Lauren Doyle
7. Elana Meyers
8. Shaina Turley
9. Lorrie Clifford
10. Dana Meschisi
11. Alev Kelter
12. Rebekah Siebach
Women's Eagles Sevens | Guangzhou Sevens Pool C
v Canada - Friday, April 4 - 10:00 P.M. ET
v Russia - Saturday, April 5 - 1:06 A.M. ET
v France - Saturday, April 5 - 3:50 A.M. ET

Olympic medalist makes USA squad for China

(IRB.COM) Monday 24 March 2014
 Olympic medallist makes USA squad for China
USA and Canada will meet again in China, just as they did in the Atlanta Sevens in February
Little more than a month after winning an Olympic silver medal in Sochi, Elana Meyers has been “thrown right into” the USA Sevens squad for the penultimate round of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in China next month.

Meyers, who won silver in the women's bobsleigh in Sochi - behind another rugby player in Heather Moyse of Canada, is one of three players named in the Women’s Eagles Sevens squad for the first time, the others being Shaina Turley and Alev Kelter, a former ice hockey and soccer player.

All three have recently earned residency contracts at the Olympic Training Center in the last three months and have impressed coach Ric Suggitt enough to earn a spot in the 12-strong squad for the tournament in Guangzhou on 5-6 April.

“Shaina is a physically and mentally tough competitor,” Suggitt said. “Shaina has a hard work ethic and she will have some specific roles to fulfil in attack and defence during the tournament.

“Elana and Alev have demonstrated enough this past month and now they will be thrown right into the major competition.”

Amelia Villines will captain the Women’s Sevens Eagles in what will be just her fourth tournament on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.

One name missing, though, is Jessica Javelet who made an impressive debut in the back-to-back rounds in Atlanta and Sao Paulo last month. She misses out due to a prior commitment.

The Women’s Eagles will face neighbours Canada, Russia and France in Pool C in China.

“We need to look after the ball on the field,” Suggitt said. “We need to execute our decisions and make certain we stay confident no matter what happens. A lot can happen in 14 minutes, we now have to make it happen for us.

“There is no doubt what we have to do to be successful in China: go there in the correct frame of mind and be prepared to play six matches with full intensity.”

Women's Eagles Sevens squad:
Victoria Folayan, Kelly Griffin, Jillion Potter, Deven Owsiany, Amelia Villines (captain), Lauren Doyle, Elana Meyers, Shaina Turley, Lorrie Clifford, Dana Meschisi, Alev Kelter, Rebekah Siebach.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Liberty Cup Looking For Women's 7s Teams

The Liberty Cup tournament in NYC is looking for women's programs for a new 7s bracket as a part of this year's event. The tournament is looking to host 8-10 teams for a one day tournament with a discounted registration fee of $100 if you mention the Stars team!

Liberty Cup 15s Rugby tournament is a biennial rugby tournament that will be expanding to 12 team format, including men's and women's 15s and a new women's 7s tournament in 2014. It will be played every two years following 2012. It started in 2007 with New York Police Dept. RFC and Bragg RFC. Evolving in 2009, it has grown to include Fire Dept. of New York and Camp Le Juene Marine base. 

In Feb 2011 these 4 teams played in Las Vegas during the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament. Understanding that this is a global war, we are expanding to include teams from across the globe. This tournament is played to honor our ruggers who have sacrificed for American Liberty relating to the tragedy on 9/11/01. Entry fee is $500 per team. This will be a USA Rugby sanctioned event. All players must be CIPP'ed. A team roster will be needed 6 weeks prior to event!!

Check out the event's facebook page for more information and email Tournament Director John Tinsley with any questions. And check out the video promo from the 2012 tournament here!

Future Eagle Watch: Nia Toliver of ICEF

This article from Fox Sports West has been making some rounds on social media and for good reason: Nia Toliver is the real deal. The more athletes of her caliber that we can introduce to rugby while young, with competitive programs, reliable coaching, and by providing them the pathways to realize their ambitions, the better off rugby in the United States will be.

Nia is incredibly fortunate to be a part of a large ICEF program that has girls competing for teams at multiple levels; most girls high school programs in the United States field one team with players ranging from age 14-19. With structure, Nia has had the chance to begin her career against age appropriate competition and to be challenged by moving up to a varsity team  out of ability rather than out of need. She also has a solid coaching system she benefits from, a geographically desirable location, a program that offers international rugby opportunities, development camps and more. That her family is already familiar with the sport as her sisters played before her is a huge bonus!

At the girls high school level there are a few programs that "act as if" they are varsity sports with 6 days a week of practice/weights/games. By treating rugby as a regular school sport with mandatory practices - just like soccer, volleyball, cross country and the rest - programs like Fallbrook in California, DSHA and Catholic Memorial in Wisconsin, Grant in Oregon, Kent in Washington, Snow Canyon in Utah, and State College in Pennsylvania stand heads above their rivals. In growing a culture where attendance at practice is mandatory, conditioning is the norm, and a full roster is available at games, these teams have reaped the rewards and placed quite high at the national level. The discrepancy between programs of this nature and others that are struggling with numbers at 2 trainings a week, that are scraping to have 15 players on the field showed, in my experience, at the Midwest and National championships. There is a huge gap between the levels.

Hopefully stories like this will motivate more and more young women to play the game of rugby and we can grow a pool of 300 Nias with her similar drive and work ethic by the 2020 games! The USA team just named its China 7s rosters and we have more crossover athletes making the team, we're bringing more elite athletes into the mix. The more athletes we can attract to the sport, and the more youth teams we can foster with greater numbers, the better competition so that a State Championship means more than winning out of 4 or 8 programs, and get to the point where all our youth players have the ability to dream like Nia would be amazing.

Star Rugby 7s has many players and our staff that are involved in coaching and developing the game of rugby. The day will soon come when each player has access to Nia's opportunities should they so choose it!

Rugby star Nia Toliver in a Rio state of mind

Nia Toliver: 'I'm hoping, somehow, one of the Olympic coaches 
will hear about me and I'll get that chance.'
Paul Rudman Photography

LOS ANGELES -- Nia Toliver is that athlete opposing coaches try to keep off of the field.
And it happened, at least once.

Toliver, as an eighth grader, was in her second year in the ICEF rugby program, which serves thousands of students in South Los Angeles. At the time Toliver was splitting time with the varsity and JV squads.

The club was in San Diego for a league tournament.  Toliver had already competed in a varsity competition. She was held out of another varsity match so that she could rejoin her JV mates. However, it didn't go according to plan.

When she took the field with the JV squad, Toliver was alerted she wasn't going to be allowed to play.

"The San Diego coach knew who she was and because she had been playing up with the varsity team as an eighth grader, he pulled some kind of obscure rule out of the rule book that said that because she played up she couldn't play down with the girls her own age so she couldn't play in the quarterfinal game and the team ended up losing," Toliver's dad, Nick recalled. "They pulled the card on us. They pulled the home cooking on us, basically.
View image on Twitter
"She was bitter."

The next time she went to San Diego, a year later, she was reminded of the coach who kept her from playing. Facing the team and coach who kept her off of the field the year prior, she was able to let out all of her frustrations.

"She went out and scored seven times on them, like back to back to back, running girls over, slinging them off of her," Nick said. "And then I said 'baby girl, are you tired?' She said 'not even.'"

This weekend Toliver will be accompanying her ICEF rugby teammates to London where they will compete in the world's largest school rugby tournament. They will also visit the UK and France before returning home in early April.

Toliver has the desirable mix of speed and strength.

"She'll run by you or she'll run through you," her father said.

Her head coach, Stuart Krohn, has called her a "rugby prodigy." Only a sophomore, she's already considered one of the top players in her age group. She has her sights set on making the US rugby sevens Olympic team in 2016.

"I think it's really realistic," Krohn said of his players' Olympic hopes. "When she's 18, she's going to be a beast. There's no doubt about it.

"Barring injury or some major setback, I think it would be a big mistake if they didn't have her out there. And (if you) put her out there, then you're talking about a chance to medal."
Growing up, Toliver didn't have many interests. She tried basketball among other activities but nothing stuck. Rugby, however, did.

She watched her two older sisters, Niquise, 22, and Rashida, 20 and later followed in their footsteps.
Nia Toliver was a natural. Her first game she recalls running around, not having a clear idea of what to do but by games end, she had earned MVP honors.

"I (was thinking) this is the best sport I've played so far," Toliver said.

Shortly after the team gets back from France, Toliver will be heading to New Zealand for 22 weeks to attend Burnside High School and play rugby with the University of Canterbury, which is home to the best women's team in the world.

The experience she hopes will give her an even better chance to make it to Rio in 2016 with Team USA.
"I'm hoping, somehow, one of the Olympic coaches will hear about me and I'll get that chance," Toliver said.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Quick Recap of Stars News and What's To Come!

After spending the last two nights up until 6am and 4am respectively watching Tokyo 7s (and live tweeting and interacting with rugby fans around the world as well as some of the players and the France, Fiji and Aussie 7s handles) writing this post at 11:35pm feels relatively early.

It was a quiet weekend in terms of actual Stars activity; all the late night viewing drastically threw off business operations and the normal writing schedule. The major US news lies in the performance of our men's 7s side outshining the 15s team's Rugby World Cup Qualifying match in Uruguay. Two major women's tournaments took place in Nashville and Washington DC but this writer was at neither due to a league match that ended up cancelled but it was too late to rejigger travel plans.

We did have our player nominations deadline pass and will now spend the next 2 weeks reviewing submissions. Thanks to all the coaches and players interested in our program!

The biggest news to share is that we have selected Stampede 7s in Calgary as our July tournament! We will be headed to Canada over the 4th of July weekend. Competition in years past has included the likes of the Dog River Howlers, Team Gold, The Druids, Wildrose, Aptoella, The Rock, The Cayman Islands, Mexico, Team Average, and more. All told Stampede 7s features 11 divisions of rugby between men's and women's premier, competitive, social, youth levels, and Old Boys with 6 pitches full of action.

Also coming up - catching up with some of our players and their latest international 7s adventures, a peek at Hong Kong 7s pools for men and the field for the women's tournament (did you know they have one this year?!?), observations from Tokyo 7s, general rugby news in the US, photo essays from  the last few weeks of players' adventures, and a new drive for sponsors. At some point in the next month we'll get to that project of reviewing all the women's Women's Sevens World Series games from this series so far, too!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Stats Don't Lie

Confession: I was a math major in college. Before that I was a biomedical engineering major. Numbers matter. 

Call me a rugby nerd, but statistics are fascinating and the pool breakdowns ahead of this weekend's Tokyo 7s are interesting! I'm really excited looking at all of this data! Analyzing which teams pass the most/the least and at what , which teams retain possession, which commit the most/least penalties and the most/least tries scored/conceded tells you a very accurate and precise story of how the current standings are what they are.

I hope they do a similar comparison after the tournament/before Hong Kong to help the the tale of why teams win and do a head-to-head analysis of before-after. I've long thought that rugby stats ARE relevant and worth keeping. Turnovers, just as in every other major professional sport, are the most telling stat of all. If you can maintain possession of your ball and steal possession from the other team you *should* win the match- be it 7s or 15s. How fast you score and the amount of passes/tackles before that score are just bonus stats on the numbers cake.

And when it comes to developing players and establishing goals, numbers are an easy, quantitative way to evaluate progress. When you remove the guesswork of why player A is better than player B, when you look at individual players game statistics, the story of who is starting and why is easier to tell. And team goals are also easier to set - instead of "winning  most lineouts" you can put a number on it and evaluate whether or not you hit tour mark or need to reevaluate that number. Then training becomes more informed and problems are solved!

Here's the iRBs statistical analysis at each of the Tokyo 7s pools:

Tokyo 7s analysis Pool A: NZL, CAN, WAL, POR
(IRB.COM) Wednesday 19 March 2014
 Tokyo 7s analysis Pool A: NZL, CAN, WAL, POR
Simple stats: So far this season New Zealand have scored the most tries and conceded the least
New Zealand - @nz7s
Rd 1 - Australia: 1st
Rd 2 - Dubai: 3rd
Rd 3 - South Africa: 2nd
Rd 4 - USA: 2nd
Rd 5 - NZ: 1st
Series rank: 1st (up from 2nd) 

IRB Game Analysis Department says: New Zealand have scored the most tries per game (4.4) whilst conceding the least (1.1), so it's not surprising that they are top of the Series. They have the third-highest average possession time (4'04) and score a try every 56 seconds of that possession. They have the highest rate of turnovers won per game (4.1 in general play and 1.8 at tackle/ruck/maul) and a low rate of turnovers lost per game (2.9 in general play and 1.0 in the contact area). In terms of their style of play, they have the third lowest rate of taking the ball into contact (one tackle/ruck/maul every 32.4 seconds of possession), and when they do take the ball into contact they retain possession 81% of the time - the third highest ratio. 

Canada - @rugbycanada
Rd 1 - Australia: Bowl runners-up 10th
Rd 2 - Dubai: Bowl SF
Rd 3 - South Africa: Shield runners-up 14th
Rd 4 - USA: 3rd
Rd 5 - NZ: Plate runners-up (6th)
Series rank: 9th (up from 11th)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Canada have the sixth-highest average tries scored per game (2.9), but the seventh-highest tries conceded (3.0). They are the masters of grinding out tight wins, though, often coming from behind. 47% of their victories have been won by a margin of five points or less, and 50% of their losses have been by 10 points or less. The strength of their combined forward power means they are third only to South Africa and New Zealand in possession retention at the tackle/ruck/maul (81%). 

Wales - @welshrugbyunion
Rd 1 - Australia: Cup QF
Rd 2 - Dubai: Plate runners-up 6th
Rd 3 - South Africa: Bowl SF
Rd 4 - USA: Bowl SF
Rd 5 - NZ: Bowl SF
Series rank: 11th (down from 10th)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Wales are currently 11th in the Series, which seems to be largely down to their porous defence. They are the eighth-best in terms of points scored per game (17.4) but third-worst of the 15 core teams in terms of average points conceded (22.1). In terms of how they approach the game, the quality of Rhys Jones's drop-kicking is key, allowing them to contest 82% of their own restarts, of which they retain 43%. Also on the plus side for coach Gareth Williams, they are the side least likely to concede a turnover in general play (2.8 per game) but most likely to concede a turnover at the tackle/ruck/maul (1.5 per game); and they are also the most disciplined team in the series, conceding just 2.8 penalties or free-kicks, including just 2.0 at the tackle/ruck/maul per game. 

Portugal - @portugalrugby
Rd 1 - Australia: Shield runners-up
Rd 2 - Dubai: Bowl runners-up 10th
Rd 3 - South Africa: Cup QF
Rd 4 - USA: Shield SF
Rd 5 - NZ: Shield SF
Series rank: 13th (same) 

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Of all the sides, Portugal have the second-lowest try count (1.9 per game) and the second-highest in the tries conceded column (4.3). This may be down to the fact that they are the team most likely to concede turnovers in general play (4.3 per game) and third most likely to concede turnovers at tackle/ruck/maul (1.2 per game), retaining on only 72% of their own ball at the tackle/ruck/maul. 68% of tries conceded by Portugal have originated from a conceded penalty, free-kick or a lost turnover.

Tokyo 7s analysis Pool B: RSA, ARG, KEN, JPN
(IRB.COM) Wednesday 19 March 2014
 Tokyo 7s analysis Pool B: RSA, ARG, KEN, JPN
Much of South Africa's success this season has been built on solid defence and work at the breakdown

South Africa - @bokrugby
Rd 1 - Australia: 4th
Rd 2 - Dubai: 2nd
Rd 3 - South Africa: 1st
Rd 4 - USA: 1st
Rd 5 - NZ: 2nd
Series rank: 2nd (down from 1st) 

IRB Game Analysis Department says: The Blitzbokke have the third-highest tries scored per game (3.8) and second-lowest tries conceded (1.4). In terms of how they are playing the game, they are the least frequent passers in the series, passing every 8.1 seconds of possession, and 75% of all their tries have been scored with three or less passes in the possession sequence. They are the most competitive team in the tackle/ruck/maul situation with a 85% retention rate and winning 1.8 turnovers per game at the tackle/ruck/maul. 

Argentina - @unionargentina
Rd 1 - Australia: Bowl SF
Rd 2 - Dubai: Plate winners 5th
Rd 3 - South Africa: 4th
Rd 4 - USA: Cup QF
Rd 5 - NZ: Cup QF
Series rank: 7th (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Argentina's defence is mean with the third lowest try concession rate per game (2.3). They have to do a lot of tackling too as the team with the second lowest average possession time per game (3'11), and are the team least likely to pass in the Series with one pass per 7.8 seconds and an average of only 24.5 passes per game. They have conceded the third-least number of turnovers in general play (2.3 per game) but are the fourth most likely to lose possession at the tackle/ruck/maul are (1.2 per game), suggesting high skill and low error levels in general play but vulnerability at the tackle/ruck/maul. 

Kenya - @kenya7s
Rd 1 - Australia: Plate runners-up 6th
Rd 2 - Dubai: Cup QF
Rd 3 - South Africa: Cup QF
Rd 4 - USA: Bowl runners-up 10th
Rd 5 - NZ: Bowl winners 9th
Series rank: 8th (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: This season in contrast to last, Kenya are the third most-likely team to take the ball into contact with a tackle/ruck/maul every 22.3 seconds of possession, and 44% of their tries have been scored with at least one tackle/ruck/maul in the build-up. They are the fourth best at winning a turnover of possession (3.6 in general play and 1.3 at the tackle/ruck/maul per game) but are second most likely to concede a turnover of possession (3.8 in general play and 1.4 at the tackle/ruck/maul per game). Interestingly, they are also the most disciplined at the tackle/ruck/maul, conceding an average of 2.0 penalties there per game. They are only 11th-best in terms of tries scored this season (15.5 points per game on average) but are the seventh-best in defence, conceding
17.2 points per game. 

Japan - @JRFURugby
Rd 1 - Australia: N/A
Rd 2 - Dubai: N/A
Rd 3 - South Africa: N/A
Rd 4 - USA: N/A
Rd 5 - NZ: N/A
Series rank: no ranking points

IRB Game Analysis Department says: First outing for Japan on this World Series. However, expect a fast-paced game based on dynamic handling and keeping the ball alive against more physical opposition. When they do hit rucks they're dynamic.

Tokyo 7s analysis Pool C: FJI, SAM, FRA, USA
(IRB.COM) Tuesday 18 March 2014

 Tokyo 7s analysis Pool C: FJI, SAM, FRA, USA
Prolific: When Fiji have the ball this season, they score a try every 44 seconds
With the help of the IRB's Game Analysis department, we look at how the four teams in Pool C in Tokyo - Fiji, Samoa, France and USA - are doing so far this season..

Fiji - @fijirugby
Rd 1 - Australia: Plate winners 5th
Rd 2 - Dubai: 1st
Rd 3 - South Africa: Plate winners 5th
Rd 4 - USA: Bowl winners 9th
Rd 5 - NZ: 3rd
Series rank: 3rd (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Fiji's is the highest try-scoring rate in the series with a try coming with every 44 seconds of possession. However, they enjoy the third-lowest amount of possession (3'15 per match) so rely on this strong ratio. In terms of how they play, they have a low rate of passing, and of taking the ball into contact, with 76% of their tries scored with three or less passes in the build-up and 85% of tries scored with no tackle/ruck/maul in the build-up. Of all the teams, they have the highest rate of ‘tackle-only’ situations (4.3 per game), suggesting that they don’t frequently compete at the breakdown, but when they do they are successful in turning over possession. However, in terms of looking after their own ball at the tackle/ruck/maul they have the lowest retention rate in the series (72%), showing perhaps why they opt not to go into contact. Of Fiji's losses, 67% have been by a margin of 10 points or less and 50% by 5 points or less. 

Samoa - @manusamoa
Rd 1 - Australia: Cup QF
Rd 2 - Dubai: Bowl SF
Rd 3 - South Africa: 3rd
Rd 4 - USA: 4th
Rd 5 - NZ: Cup QF
Series rank: 6th (down from 5th)
IRB Game Analysis Department says: Samoa have the highest rate of passing in the series with one pass every 5.9 seconds of possession. They also have the fourth highest average possession time (3min 54s), so that's a lot of passes in total. Allied to that passing game, they are the fourth-least likely to take the ball into contact (1 tackle/ruck/maul every 29.1 seconds of possession) and 47% of their tries are scored with more than three passes in the build-up, suggesting Samoa's style is focused on passing, movement and space rather than phase-play and contact, contrary to what many people might expect.
France - @francerugby7s
Rd 1 - Australia: Bowl winners 9th
Rd 2 - Dubai: Shield winners 13th
Rd 3 - South Africa: Plate runners-up 6th
Rd 4 - USA: Cup QF
Rd 5 - NZ: Bowl SF
Series rank: 10th (down from 9th)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Contrary to the commonly-held notion about French rugby, les bleus have the third-lowest try scoring rate with a try scored every 96 seconds of possession, while they are conceding a try every 75 seconds of opposition possession. They are, however, the third most disciplined team at the tackle/ruck/maul area, conceding an average of 2.1 penalties in this area per game. 

USA - @usarugby
Rd 1 - Australia: Shield winners 13th
Rd 2 - Dubai: Shield SF
Rd 3 - South Africa: Bowl SF
Rd 4 - USA: Shield winners 13th
Rd 5 - NZ: Shield winners 13th
Series rank: 14th (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: USA have the fourth-lowest try count with 2.4 per game and have conceded the fourth-highest number (3.4 per game). They are the third-lowest passers in the series (one pass every 7.5 seconds of possession) but the second most likely to take the ball into contact (one tackle/ruck/maul every 21.5 seconds of possession). Worryingly for coach Matt Hawkins, they are the least disciplined team in the series at the tackle/ruck/maul, conceding 3.0 penalties there per game and 4.1 penalties / free-kicks per match overall, and 34% of tries scored against them originate from a conceded penalty or free kick.

Tokyo 7s analysis Pool D: ENG, AUS, SCO, ESP
(IRB.COM) Tuesday 18 March 2014

 Tokyo 7s analysis Pool D: ENG, AUS, SCO, ESP
Tom Mitchell's kicking is helping England kick 89% 
contestable restarts, and win 37% of those back
England - @englandrugby
Rd 1 - Australia: 3rd
Rd 2 - Dubai: 4th
Rd 3 - South Africa: Bowl winners 9th
Rd 4 - USA: Plate winners 5th
Rd 5 - NZ: 4th
Series rank: 4th (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Simon Amor's side has scored the third-highest number of points per game (25.0) and has the fourth meanest defence (13.6 pts). Tom Mitchell's kicking helps them have the highest conversion success in the series (81.4), and they are also the most likely to kick contestable restarts (89%), regaining possession on 37% of those contestable kicks. That is a key stat as 23% of their tries have been scored from possession regained at the restart (second highest). In terms of how they're playing the game, they have a low rate of turnovers won per game (2.5 in general play and 0.5 at the tackle/ruck/maul), and have the third lowest possession retention rate at the tackle/ruck/maul (74%). Instead, they are the second-highest in terms of tackle-only situations (3.7 per game). 

Australia - @aussie7s
Rd 1 - Australia: 2nd
Rd 2 - Dubai: Bowl winners 9th
Rd 3 - South Africa: Bowl runners-up 10th
Rd 4 - USA: Plate runners-up 6th
Rd 5 - NZ: Plate winners 5th
Series rank: 5th (up from 6th)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Of the 15 core teams, Australia are the fifth-highest try-scorers (3.5 per game) and the fifth meanest in terms of tries conceded (2.3 per game). They have the highest average possession time (4'05), scoring a try every 71 seconds of possession. Of all the sides, they are also most likely to take the ball into contact (11.8 tackle/ruck/mauls per game and one tackle/ruck/maul every 20.8 seconds of possession), and they retain possession at 83% of those tackle/ruck/mauls. They are also the most disciplined team, conceding an average of 2.8 penalties or free kicks per game, and the fourth-most disciplined at the tackle/ruck/maul, but they are also the second most likely team to be penalised in possession at the tackle/ruck/maul, with 48% of their tackle/ruck/maul penalties conceded coming from their own possession. Of Australia's losses, 70% have been by a margin of 10 points or less and they've won 37% of their victories by five points or less, so lots of tight games. 

Scotland - @scotlandteam
Rd 1 - Australia: Bowl SF
Rd 2 - Dubai: Cup QF
Rd 3 - South Africa: Shield winners 13th
Rd 4 - USA: Bowl SF
Rd 5 - NZ: Bowl runners-up
Series rank: 12th (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: Scotland have the highest average possession per game (4'05) and the highest passing rate in the series (41.1 per game with a pass every 6.0 seconds of possession) but the third-lowest try scoring rate, with a try every 96 seconds they have the ball. They concede the fourth-highest number of tries (a try conceded every 64 seconds of possession) and are the third most likely to concede a penalty at tackle/ruck/maul (2.7 per game), 57% of which are when they are in possession of the ball. 

Spain - @spain7s
Rd 1 - Australia: Shield SF
Rd 2 - Dubai: Shield runners-up 14th
Rd 3 - South Africa: Shield SF
Rd 4 - USA: Shield runners-up 14th
Rd 5 - NZ: Shield runners-up 14th
Series rank: 15th (same)

IRB Game Analysis Department says: The statistics don't lie for the lowest-ranked of the 15 core teams, and most likely at this stage to be relegated at the end of the season: Spain have scored the least points per game (9.3) and conceded the most (30.0). They have the lowest average possession time per game at 3'09 and 67% of the tries they've conceded have been scored quickly, with less than three passes in the possession build-up, suggesting missed first-up tackles.