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Vickerman: Red, Black or White

With the narrowness of the pitch a factor– the teams that can adapt and bring their offloads to the fore will no doubt have some success.
02 Mar 2019 10:00
Vickerman: Red, Black or White
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s team during the parade in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA on February 26, 2019. Photo: World Rugby

World Rugby TV commenta­tor and former England 7s captain Rob Vickerman believes the Sam Boyd Stadium pitch is going to play an important factor in determining this week­end’s USA 7s winners.

“With the narrowness of the pitch a factor– the teams that can adapt and bring their offloads to the fore will no doubt have some success,” he said.

“Meaning Fiji will further en­hance their threat level, if that were possible. I’m excited to see how USA will respond to the pres­sures of expectation, especially without their superstar in their spangled banner, Perry Baker, who is out with a broken jaw.”

Vickerman said the Sam Boyd Sta­dium is more akin to an American Football pitch, and so challenges the teams in a very different way.

“The sidelines are some two me­tres from the stadium walls, and the pitch feels much more like a theatre stage than other legs with the stands casting down on the players. “

Rise of New Zealand

However, he said the rise and rise of the New Zealand team take them back to being favourites.

“England seem well poised to con­tinue a push for the coveted 4th spot and have the luxury of being in the same pool as South Africa, their ri­vals for that place. With Chile and Japan in the pool, an analytical view then shifts to the cross over of Pool B specifically with both USA and Argentina as my picks for likely quarter final games – which as we have seen this season can be brilliantly contested.

“Some of the younger players are stepping up for England as injuries are noted, with Jamie Barden mak­ing the leap from a very successful schoolboy rugby side to Interna­tional Sevens, guided as usual by the regular top performers for the side, Tom Mitchell, Phil Burgess and Dan Norton.”

Home for USA

For hosts USA, Vickerman says, with four consecutive finals, albeit four silver medals, the Americans have had a stunning start to the sea­son, showing their growth as a com­plete and balanced squad and with a consistency that all teams crave.

“Many would cast a negative over their final performances, having being swept aside comfortably in each, but the credit for starting this well for a team that only usually kick on from this weekend onwards bodes very well indeed.

“Las Vegas represents ‘home’ for the players this weekend, and al­though this will bring increased pressures through attending fam­ily and a raft of media duties. “They have shown in past seasons to harness the substantial energy that a typically American crowd can bring (think aerial flyovers, Stars and Stripes outfits and a mo­notony of chanting),” he added.

Edited by Osea Bola

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