Rugby sevens is fast and furious, requires exceptional levels of fitness, skill and decision making under pressure for 14 minutes. Unlike rugby 15s one mistake, one poor pass, one dropped ball, one missed tackle can result in the game being lost.
The sevens will be all done and dusted in the first three days of the Commonwealth Games, starting at 6pm AEST on Friday with the women playing South Africa at 6.22pm followed by the men v Jamaica 7.50pm.
For the rugby fan you get to listen to the dulcet tones of long time commentator Greg Clarke. In addition, former sevens player (and now Parramatta NRLW player) Tiana Penitani, is a very good expert commentator, providing the ‘why’ something happened not just the ‘what’.
Unlike some sports, the best teams on the World Series are also in the Commonwealth Games – New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Australia.
What is the format?
The women have eight teams, two pools of four.
Pool A – New Zealand, Canada, England, Sri Lanka.
Pool B – Australia, Fiji, Scotland, South Africa
The men have 16 teams, four pools of four.
Pool A – New Zealand, England, Samoa, Sri Lanka
Pool B – South Africa, Scotland, Tonga, Malaysia
Pool C – Fiji, Canada, Wales, Zambia
Pool D – Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Jamaica
The top two in each pool progress to the quarter final/ semi-final medals rounds. (The other two teams in the pools do play a couple of additional games too.)
There will be some mighty close games and more than likely a few blow out scores. (Like many sports at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, there is a bit of the ‘haves and the have nots’ when it comes to resourcing. So before complaining about blow out scores, a quick reminder, for many of these players just participating will be a sporting highlight for them.)
Who are the Australian teams?
Aussie Women’s Team
For those new to rugby sevens the women’s team is the only full time professional national football program in Australia and has been since 2014.
The team’s youngest is 17 year old Jesse Southwell and the oldest 34 year old Sharni Williams, with an average age of just 22. If the hip word in sporting vernacular is cohesion, they have it. This team has been pretty much together since before the Olympics with minimal change. The beating hearts of the team are still Charlotte Caslick and Williams, both are needed to win Gold. Caslick is one of the best players in the world and has been since the 2016 Rio gold medal.
Three game breakers to keep an eye on are Faith Nathan, Maddison Levi, and Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea. With restarts being so critical in the sevens game, this is where Maddison Levi has added a new dimension to the team. It will be interesting to see how the team performs with Lefau-Fakaosilea back. She did not play when they lost the World Series Toulouse final to the Kiwis. She is the team’s most physically dominant player in both attack and defence. A new player who has really started to impress recently is Teagan Levi. (both Levi sisters were part of the Gold Coast Suns AFLW program).
Aussie Men’s Team
The squad is a good mix with an average age of 25. The team has a few old heads such as captain Nick Malouf, Henry Hutchinson, Maurice Longbottom and Josh Turner. But to pick three to keep an eye on – Corey Toole, Dietrich Roache and Henry Paterson are worth watching in action. For pure speed watch Toole with a bit of space. The Aussie men’s team is not a glamour team but every player knows their job and does it well, especially in defence.
A couple of 15s players have been brought into the squad for the Commonwealth Games. Coach John Manenti has said Samu Kerevi and Mark Nawaqanitawase are X factor players. That is, they are the cherry on top, to the core squad that has performed so well throughout the World Series. It is unlikely they will play big minutes but used in short bursts.
For both teams, based on recent results a medal is probably non-negotiable.
For the women they will be more than just disappointed by any other colour but gold. However to beat New Zealand is a huge task as they are still the favourites. In the Australian pool they have the dangerous Fijiana who bring the flair but also the physicality Fijian teams are renowned for.
As a reminder at the Tokyo Olympics they got the win over Australia. If that occurs it likely throws a spanner in the works, with Australia having to then meet the Kiwis before the final. Also in their pool are South Africa who are a bit of an unknown as they have been putting a lot of resources into their women’s program. So Australia topping the pool is a likely, but by no means a certainty.
In summary, most will be expecting an Australia vs. New Zealand gold medal final.
For the men’s competition it should be a flip of the coin between Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia for the gold. The bottom-line, there are four teams and there are only three medals, so at least one team is going to be really disappointed. (It should be noted that Australia, out of six Commonwealth Games, have only had two bronze and one silver medal. On the other hand New Zealand has won five of the six Gold medals.) Whilst rugby sevens is a bit like T20 cricket where anyone can win on the day, Australia should get through the pool stage pretty easily.
The knockout stages are when the stress kicks in, significantly. Australia has won and lost to all the likely top eight teams. Any way you look at it, it is going to be mighty exciting. Should the Aussie men win gold it will be an unbelievably outstanding achievement as unlike the women, only six of the players are on full time Rugby AU contracts.
How to watch it
The Commonwealth Games sevens tournament will be on Channel 7 (or you can stream it on 7 Plus app), starting Friday 29 July 2022, from 6pm to 10.30pm (and on Saturday and Sunday from 6pm). If you did not use 7Plus during the Olympics, it is a game changer to watch games and sports that may not be on the main FTA channels.