A View From Below

Sporting debate and opinion

IRB Rugby Sevens World Cup

The IRB Rugby Sevens World Cup kicked off on thursday, and while the domestic focus on England’s depressing performances in the Six Nations so far has created a slow and bumbling current image of English rugby, the speed and strength of  their sevens counterparts has led them to be one of the favourites for the World Cup.

Watching sevens is often at times like looking at the rugby world on its head. The first day saw upsets such as Samoa’s demolishion of Ireland and Scotland’s defeat at the hands of Canada, not mentioning today’s Fijian win over France. These results in 15’s rugby union would be seen as great upsets but the style and thrill of sevens allows raw pace and strength to shine through.

England have stumped up three victories already against albeit lesser teams. An early scare from Hong Kong was subsided by a brace from Tom Varndell and a 22 point performance from fly-half Ben Gollings.
Gollings is a man with serious sevens experience, having been round the circuit for nearly a decade now. During that time he has become the highest points scorer having overtaken Fijian legend Waisale Serevi in 2005. His consistent displays will be key for England as they try to win the tournament for the first time since 1993.

England’s second win came against Tunisia who ran them right to the wire in a close encounter ending 26-24 to the Red and Whites, as Cracknell, Gollings and two Varndell tries, including a superb 60 metre effort, were enough to fight off the spirited comeback from the men from north African.
Tom Varndell is a fantastic sevens finisher with 5 tries to his name already in the tournament. A sense of excitement was felt all around the Dubai stadium every time the Leicester man recieved the ball. The speedy winger has had a stuttering rugby union career so far and although a couple of good domestic seasons for the tigers saw Varndell selected for the elite squad for the 08/09 term, he was dropped for the Six Nations and the Leicester in 2009. However, Varndell may well have found his calling in sevens rugby where his raw ability and acceleration can’t be matched. His significant scores will be crucial to England’s efforts.

The final game of the group stage saw England romp to a 26-7 triumph against Kenya to set up a quarter-final showdown with the Samoans. A confident display over the East Africans with a try apiece from  scrum half Kevin Barrett and Varndell shot Ben Ryan’s team to an early lead. In the second half a powerful exhibition of attacking rugby from Fijian born Isoa Damu muscled England to the last eight. Damu shrugged off four tackles for his second try and his style of aggressive play is sure to scare future opponents.

England and South Africa were the form teams going into the competition and they both attained back-to-back wins in the group stage as England drew Samoa and South Africa face Argentina in the first knockout round. They are joined by the highly-rated South Pacific island Fiji who confront Kenya and the consistent New Zealand tackle Wales. A giant missing from the knockout round is Australia who came runners up at the tournament in 2001.

It is the thrill and anticipation in sevens that anything can happen in such attacking circumstances that make the code worth watching, and i am certainly looking forward to the elimination games tommorow.

Men's tournament - day two as it happenedFiji fans celebrate a try on the second day of play

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March 6, 2009 - Posted by | Rugby Union

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