Seven reasons to get excited about the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens

0
1412

The men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 has made the journey south from Hong Kong to Singapore this weekend.

And with crucial points up for grabs in the race for the Series title, Olympic qualification and battle against relegation, the 10th HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens is sure to be one to remember.

Every match at the tournament will be streamed live on the Series website and World Rugby’s official YouTube channel, where there is no local broadcaster.

Ahead of what promises to be another compelling weekend of action, we give you seven reasons why you should tune in.

Tightest Series to continue

It has been almost impossible to take your eyes off the men’s Series this year, as it continues to be the most competitive in history.

Heading into Singapore, five teams have tasted Cup glory. By contrast, the two most recent 10-tournament seasons yielded only four gold medal-winners.

Even the All Blacks Sevens, who lead the standings by 21 points with three tournaments to play, have suffered mishaps in the opening round in Hong Kong and Vancouver. They will know too that two teams, Argentina and Samoa, failed to reach the Cup quarter-finals at events this season having won the previous tournament.

Nine teams, meanwhile, maintain a mathematical chance of securing a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and the fight against relegation looks set to go down to the wire in Toulouse. It means every match in Singapore will have something riding on it.

All Blacks Sevens chase Olympic ticket

New Zealand will become the first men’s team, other than hosts France, to secure their place at the Paris Games should they seal Cup glory in Singapore.

The All Blacks Sevens are the form team in the Series, having reached five of the last six Cup finals and won three of the previous four, including at Hong Kong Stadium last time out.

Victory this weekend would draw them level with Fiji on three Series wins in Singapore and ensure they cannot be caught in the race for Paris by Australia, who currently sit one place and two points outside of the qualification spots.

South Africa are immediately above the defending Series champions, and with those two teams drawn alongside the All Blacks Sevens in Pool A, it promises to be a compelling opening day at Singapore Sports Hub.

Australia reach milestone

It has been a rollercoaster Series for Australia so far, encapsulated by their contrasting fortunes in the two tournaments held in Hong Kong.

Back in November, Australia kicked off their title defence in style as they beat Fiji in the Cup final. Fast forward to last weekend, however, and the reigning champions missed out on a place in the quarter-finals for the second time this season.

John Manenti and his players will be hoping for a better performance in Singapore as they become only the second team to participate in their 200th Series tournament.

Sitting sixth in the men’s standings, 43 points behind New Zealand with only 64 to play for, it looks unlikely they will regain their crown. But a strong performance in Singapore is a must if they are to overhaul South Africa, Fiji or Argentina and claim a ticket to Paris.

Fiji feel at home in Singapore

No team enjoys playing at Singapore Sports Hub quite as much as Fiji, who have won the event more times than any other nation.

Last year they lifted the Cup title for a third time in Singapore, beating the returning All Blacks Sevens in the final.

A similar result this weekend would reignite their title hopes and put them within touching distance of Olympic qualification.

In total, Fiji have scored 226 tries in Singapore at an average of 4.3 per match, more than any other team, and they only need 54 points become the first nation to rack up 1,500 Series points at the tournament.

Soyizwapi among stars who shine in Singapore

Three current stars of the Series who come alive in Singapore are South Africa captain Siviwe Soyizwapi, the USA’s Perry Baker and Fiji’s Waisea Nacuqu.

Soyizwapi – who still needs two tries to reach 150 in the Series – has touched down a record 21 times in Singapore, four more than Baker and Dan Norton in second.

The Blitzboks could do with a few more this weekend as they attempt to consolidate their place in the Olympic qualification places despite a tough pool draw.

Only four players have scored more than Nacuqu’s 15 tries in Singapore and he will be hoping for a couple more on Saturday and Sunday as he celebrates playing in his 50th tournament.

Great Britain aim to back-up Hong Kong result

Great Britain were the surprise package at Hong Kong Stadium, only missing out on the bronze medal to Stephen Parez’s last-minute score.

They remain in the hunt for automatic Olympic qualification, mathematically at least, but with a maximum of 64 points to play for in Singapore, Toulouse and London, they are 29 points behind South Africa.

That means they must realistically go as far as they can in Singapore to maintain those slim hopes beyond this weekend, something that won’t be easy given they play Argentina, Ireland and Japan in Pool D.

Tony Roques’ side only need to match or better the results of Spain, Uruguay and Kenya in Singapore to be guaranteed their place in next season’s Series.

Relegation contest takes shape

Only two tournaments and a maximum of 44 points remain before the relegation places will be decided, following next month’s event in Toulouse.

Having amassed only 11 points from eight tournaments this season, Japan desperately need to find some form if they are to avoid automatic relegation.

Japan sit 11 points behind Canada, who themselves face an uphill battle to avoid playing in the four-team relegation play-off tournament in London.

Above them, Kenya (30 points) are now 10 points from guaranteed safety but only a point separates Uruguay (39) in 12th and Spain (40) in 11th after Los Leones reached the Cup quarter-finals in Hong Kong to move out of the relegation places.

The core teams ranked 12th to 14th will contest the play-off tournament with the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023 winners to determine the 12th core team for the 2024 Series.

SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS