History will be made this week when women play at the famous Hong Kong Sevens tournament for the first time.
The men’s team played there in November so this season the men play in Hong Kong twice.
The Hong Kong sevens is where it all started for rugby sevens. For some, this is the number one sevens tournament. It started way back in 1976 with 12 teams, so is the founding father of sevens, to where it is now an Olympic sport.
While the Australian men took out the HK7s in November, it is traditionally Fiji’s tournament having taken it out 19 times.
New Zealand have had dominance over Australia, (and every other team), in the last four tournaments.
The Australian women are in a pretty feisty pool with Fiji, Ireland and Brazil. While the Fijiana have dropped off a bit they still bring a physical approach which often throws the Aussie women off their game. In simple terms, if the Fijiana get a lot of possession then the Aussie women get into a bit of strife as they do not usually have the physical defence dominance to win back the ball. On the flip side you have Ireland who are really highly skilled scrappers. Not sure if Ireland has previously beaten Australia but they never give up and have provided Australia with some tough matches.
It will be interesting to see what squad is selected and what the starting lineup will be. In the last tournament neither Sharni Williams or Demi Hayes played so they juggled things around and started Teagan Levi and used Lily Dick off the bench. It seemed to work very well. Another Kiwi and Australia final will be expected. No doubt both teams will be keen to be the inaugural women’s winners of the Hong Kong sevens.
As for the men it is a very, very different story. Every game and every tournament are critical. The Australian men always have a tough pool, mainly because the men’s Sevens Series is so highly competitive. But to be honest their pool with USA, Spain and Japan is probably a less tough pool that they have had in recent times.
This tournament is again vital to the Aussie men if they want to finish at season end in the top four to automatically qualify for the Paris Olympics. (Currently they are fifth in the standings.) Including this Hong Kong tournament there are four tournaments to go. A lot can and no doubt will occur between now and the final May tournament in London.
There is a core group of experienced players but recent standouts have been Henry Lawson and new young gun Darcy Lancaster. Hopefully captain Nick Malouf can return soon from injury as well as James Turner to add some much-needed pace.
It is pretty simple, the Aussie men have minimal options, just have to keep winning, getting into quarter finals, semi-finals and finals.
It all starts on Friday.