Wellington Sevens: Three continents, one pool
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The Men’s Eagles Sevens will kick off their fifth tournament of the 2013-14 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series – Wellington Sevens – Thursday at 7:21 P.M. ET against Argentina before finishing play in Pool C against Canada and Scotland. Here is a look at the Eagles’ pool.
The Eagles should be familiar with Los Pumas after nearly snatching victory from the South Americans in pool play at USA Sevens, the previous Series leg. With the teams level at 12-12 with 30 seconds left, the Eagles found themselves with possession but failed to turn it into points. A penalty against the home side awarded Argentina possession and Facundo Panceyra Garrido gave his team the victory with a try.
Garrido has scored 18 tries in 16 Series events leading up to Wellington, where Argentina has defeated the Eagles four times in five matchups since 2000. Most recently, Los Pumas advanced to the Cup Semifinal in 2009 with a 24-14 Cup Quarterfinal win against the Eagles.
Last year, Argentina was knocked out of Wellington Sevens by Scotland in the Plate Semifinal, and the South Americans finished the tournament with a 2-3 record.
The neighbors to the north are coming off of a good showing at USA Sevens, where they defeated Samoa in a tough third-place match, 22-19, to pick up 17 standings points. Now in 11th ahead of core teams Scotland, Portugal, the Eagles, and Spain, respectively, Canada should receive a boost in New Zealand with Nathan Hirayama, Sean Duke and Ciaran Hearn returning.
Duke will be making his first appearance of this year’s Series in Wellington with a remarkable 89 tries scored in just 26 tournaments. Along with the new additions, Canada will also field John Moonlight and Philip Mack, who were named to the USA Sevens Dream Team. Mack, on 40 Series appearances, trails Shane Thompson’s 46 for Canada’s all-time appearance leader.
The Eagles last faced their border rival in pool play at Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens last November in a match in which Canada scored seven tries to win 41-7. The Eagles have had success in recent times against Canada in New Zealand, with a 31-7 Shield Semifinal win in 2011 and a 19-7 Shield Semifinal win in 2008, the last two matchups in Wellington.
Canada won the Bowl at last year’s tournament and will be looking to add to their standings tally to close the gap on the Series leaders.
The Eagles and Scotland were in a head-to-head battle in the final phase of the 2012-13 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series to keep core status. By winning the Plate at Tokyo Sevens and Glasgow Sevens, as well as reaching the Plate Final at London Sevens, the Eagles managed to jump both Scotland and Canada in the final Series standings to force Scotland into a relegation battle with Portugal, Spain, Russia and Tonga.
At the 2013 IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens, Scotland reached the Plate Semifinal before losing 21-7 to Canada. Scotland’s performance was good enough to keep core team status for the 2013-14 Series. After four tournaments, Scotland’s highest finish came in a loss to Argentina at the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens Plate Semifinal.
Scotland defeated the Eagles 19-10 in the Gold Coast Sevens Bowl Quarterfinal last October, the last matchup between the two teams. The Eagles last defeated Scotland in the Plate Final at Tokyo Sevens during last year’s Series.
In Wellington, the Eagles have faced Scotland twice in the past three years, both losses. The Eagles fell 14-12 in the 2012 Shield Semifinal and 24-7 in the 2011 Bowl Quarterfinal, though the blow was softened as the Eagles won the Shield that year. The last victory against Scotland in New Zealand for the Eagles came in the 2010 Shield Semifinal, 19-12.
Scotland will welcome Mark Robertson and Andrew Turnbull to the squad in Wellington, where the Scots lost the Plate Final to Australia last year. Turnbull is the all-time appearance leader for Scotland with 52 appearances and has scored 131 tries for 657 points.
Men's Eagles Sevens | Wellington Sevens
v Argentina - Thursday, Feb. 6 - 7:21 P.M. ET
v Canada - Thursday, Feb. 6 - 9:48 P.M. ET
v Scotland - Friday, Feb. 7 - 12:56 A.M. ET