What to Expect this HSBC Sevens Series Season
Written By: Karen Gasbarino-Knutt
Photo Credit: World Rugby
18 teams have converged in Dubai for the premier of the 2017-2018 Rugby Sevens World Series Season. 12 Women’s and 16 Men’s teams have gathered for the series opener, beginning today. Note: with the time change, the women played all their pool matches overnight and won all three handily. Julia Greenshields proved a powerful adversary for opposing teams to deal with, and of course Ghislaine Landry was her usual play-making self.
The Sevens World Series has gained in momentum in recent years and is hotly sought after by countries to host. It’s a weekend long event and celebrates the faster 7s game, showcasing the speed and talent of many athletes. Many 15s supporters watch the 7s as well, for the thrill of the speed and the ability players have for more scoring opportunities with fewer players on the pitch.
In 2017/18, there will be 10 rounds to the series, with the Canada Sevens-hosted Vancouver stop right smack in the middle (round 6). It will be held at BC Place from March 9-11, and has become wildly popular both locally and as a destination stop for fans of the sport who travel from one venue to the next. It’s especially handy as it’s directly after the highly anticipated Las Vegas 7s event. Many fans attend both stops on the tour.
As with the opening of every season, the men and women begin their series on the same weekend in Dubai, but after that will only see each other in Hong Kong from April 5-8 and then again at the end with Paris which is this year’s culmination of the Sevens Series from June 8-10.
The men will have ten stops in seven months, and the women will have five. The women will have the challenge of two events in April following what seems to be a long break, as they compete in Sydney at the end of January followed by two full months off before they compete in Hong Kong.
As with the 15s version of our sport, Sevens is dominated largely by New Zealand, with the men taking the championship 12 times since 1999, and the women taking 4 of 5 honours since the women joined the circuit in 2012. While New Zealand dominates, their men have been unsuccessful in taking the number one spot in the last three seasons, losing it twice to Fiji and then last year to South Africa in a stunning upset.
Canada’s Men’s Captain for the past three seasons has been Harry Jones, who replaced John Moonlight in 2015. He’s been a stalwart in the series along with Moonlight and Nathan Hirayama. He’s played in 211 matches and scored 84 tries, while Moonlight has played in 278 matches and scored a tidy 100 tries.
Canada’s men share some top honours alongside 2017’s 7s Player of the year, US Eagle Perry Baker, who scored an impressive 285 points with 57 tries last year. Nathan Hirayama is now Canada’s top points scorer with 1130 career points earned, 269 of these last year. On top of that Hirayma scored 83 conversion points, 5th best on the series circuit. He’s been impressive for Canada consistently and is definitely a crowd favourite with his speed and kicking skill, and impressive record of only having received a single yellow card in 231 matches. He’s also a natural leader within the team. Justin Douglas lead the Canadian men last year in try-scoring with 40, but also got the third most clean breaks among all players with 58.
On the women’s side of things, the stats are even more impressive. We have a consistently top-rated team, with fan favourites Jen Kish, Britt Benn, and Captain Ghislaine Landry leading our women’s contingent. Captain Landry was best in the world last season with the most points scored at 269. But she’s also scored the second most conversions with 72. In terms of career statistics, Landry is also the top player of all time with 844 total points scored, but shares top-five accolades with fellow Canadian Bianca Farella, who has 420 career points. Both women also factor in the top 5 all time tries, and Landry is listed in the top 5 with 168 conversions and a single penalty kick as well.
Impressive statistics, and very surprising that Landry did not earn top honours as the 2017 Sevens Player of the Year at the World Rugby Awards which took place last weekend in Monaco. She was nominated and short listed, but fell to New Zealand’s Portia Woodman, who is undeniably an absolute beast on the field and not likely the favourite competitor for any other team to face. Woodman gets the ball, Woodman is gone, Woodman scores. Landry is every bit as good a player and every bit feared. If she has another cracker of a season ahead, those well-deserved accolades should be hers a year from now.
Magali Harvey – not surprisingly, considering how fast she is and skilled at the side-step – is Canada’s best player for clean breaks with 6 for 2017, but again Landry leads all time with 43 career breaks, next only to Australia’s Michaela Blyde with 55.
All in all, the Canada Sevens women’s side has an impressive list of top player statistics, and is consistently near the top of the rankings, finishing third overall for the 2016-17 season. The men finished 8th overall last year but with a strong end to the season including a win in Singapore. This followed a more challenging 2015-16 which saw them place 13th overall on the season.
The Canadian Women’s team opens their season tomorrow early morning here in Canada. The schedule is Canada v Spain at 12:22 am PT (3:22 ET), Ireland at 3:18 am PT (6:18 ET), and Fiji at 6:15 am PT (9:15 ET). It’s a median pool for Canada, but with the collective skill and experience, our team is favoured to top their pool for the Dubai 7s.
Conversely, the men face a tougher pool against first Kenya, then Uganda, and then last year’s champions, South Africa. The men have had time to acclimatize and look sharp and focused, and should be able to make that translate on the pitch.
This is just the first tournament of many to come for the 2017-18 season. Canadian supporters have high hopes for our teams, as they’ve been getting stronger in recent seasons and in many respects are the envy of the Rugby Sevens world. Certainly, we’ve got players who are consistently named to dream teams by World Rugby at the end of each tournament.
We should be proud of our Canadian Sevens. Come March 9, 2018, Canada will be on hand for what is likely to be a sold-out Vancouver 7s event at BC Place. Once again, we’ll show the world our hosting abilities, as well as how we respond when playing at home to our crowd.