20th – 22nd July, 2018 – AT&T Park, San Francisco, United States
The England national rugby sevens team will be looking to fire on all cylinders as they launch their bid for the Rugby World Cup Sevens title in San Francisco this weekend.
England Sevens, seeded fourth in the World Cup behind New Zealand, Fiji and leaders South Africa, will flag off their campaign on Saturday at the AT&T Park against the winner between Samoa and Uganda.
Samoa will have to lock horns with the Rugby Cranes Sevens in a preliminary knockout round of 16, as both teams are seeded outside the top eight. England on the other hand can afford the luxury of having a well rested squad, as they attained automatic qualification into the round of 16 having reached the final in the last edition of the World Cup held in Moscow five years ago.
For the indoctrinated rugby follower, 2018 has presented a myriad of tournaments almost to a saturating level, yet still attracting little by way of complaints as a result of the love for the game.
Having registered a podium finish by winning bronze in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games held in April, England Sevens concluded their campaign in the HSBC Sevens World Series by finishing fifth on the log with 122 points; a paltry point behind fourth placed Australia and a whopping sixty adrift of champions South Africa.
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The Blitzboks successfully retained their title, albeit winning it by a marginal two points, after defeating England 24-14 in the final circuit of the season held in Paris.
Up until the final series of the 2017/18 campaign, it was Fiji that was projected as probable winners, as they led the standings by a salubrious seven point cushion. The Flying Fijians however suffered a shock 19-17 defeat to a spirited English side in a breathtaking quarter-final; one that brought their recent dominance to a tumultuous end.
Having unceremoniously bowed out of the competition, all that the Fijians could do is adopt a wait and see approach, but what they saw in return was the title being grasped from right under their noses by the Springboks who needed a win to leapfrog them.
Werner Kok opened the scoring for the Boks with a try in the third minute, while Justin Geduld duly scored a conversion goal to hand South Africa the lead. England registered a remarkable comeback through scores from Oliver Lindsay-Hague and Dan Norton – with Tom Mitchell scoring the conversion goals – but the match was tantalizingly poised at 14-14 during break after a Ryan Oosthuizen try and Geduld’s conversion.
The South Africans were nonetheless unplayable after the interval, as Dewald Human got their third while Geduld scored a routine conversion goal before rounding up the win with a penalty.
It was a heartbreaking result for Fiji who finished fifth in the French capital, thereby abdicating their reign at the final stretch despite having won gold in five of the previous six circuits.
England’s hope of ending their 25-year old wait for the Melrose Cup thins on how well they can maintain consistency in the newly restructured Rugby World Cup Sevens. The 2018 edition of the tournament has been remodeled to a straight knock-out format, so much that the last team standing will have won all matches in order to be crowned the new champions of the world.
As such, it’s not so much for the England Sevens to make their presence felt by registering an emphatic win in their opening match, but rather do just enough to get over the line – one game at a time.
England 7s team – Rugby World Cup Sevens
Head of England Sevens Simon Amor complimented a blend of youth and experience to his side, as he named a 12-man squad prior to their trip to San Francisco.
Amor’s squad includes ten players who secured bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, whilst also having six players in his ranks who won the silver medal with Team Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Tom Mitchell retains his place as captain in what will be his second Rugby World Cup Sevens — having staged his debut during the 2013 edition in Russia.
All-time leading try-scorer Dan Norton and England’s most-capped rugby sevens player James Rodwell were first on the list, while Mike Ellery — who played during their loss in the Moscow final- likewise makes the cut.
Will Edwards and Will Muir and the newest additions to the squad having graduated from the England Sevens academy squad.
England Squad: Phil Burgess, Alex Davis, Richard de Carpentier, Will Edwards, Mike Ellery, Harry Glover, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Ruaridh McConnochie, Tom Mitchell (captain), Will Muir, Dan Norton, James Rodwell
England Sevens betting prospects
Despite reaching the quarter-finals in the recent five editions, England are yet to match the heights set by the 1993 side that delivered their first and only Melrose title in Murrayfield.
The England Sevens made a sizzling effort in Moscow five years ago, but still stand at +2200 at 5Dimes to win the World Cup, four places behind New Zealand, USA, South Africa and firm favorites, Fiji.
England 7s World Cup Fixture
England 7s vs. Samoa/Uganda 7s: Saturday, July 21, 2018 1:01p.m Local time – AT&T Park, San Francisco, United States
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