HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series - Team Profiles & History - Dubai Sevens 2016

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series - Team Profiles & History - Dubai Sevens 2016

Ahead of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series opener in Dubai, World Rugby profiled the 16 teams vying for the first tournament win of the 2016-17 campaign.

Argentina

  • Coach: Santiago Gomez Cora

  • 2015-16 series placing: Fifth

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Axel Muller, 132 points / 26 tries
  • Best series finish: Third (2003-04)
  • Series titles: 0

A loss to Team GB in sudden death of the quarter-finals of Rio 2016 will be fresh in the memory for Argentina and head coach Santiago Gomez Cora as they head into the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Last year in Dubai, they were knocked out by South Africa but went on to finish fifth overall in the series. They have talent in abundance and will be looking to put in a big performance against Fiji in Pool A.

Australia

  • Coach: Andy Friend

  • 2015-16 series placing: Fourth

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: James Stannard, 218 points / Henry Hutchison, 27 tries
  • Best series finish: Second (2000-01)
  • Series titles: 0

With fourth place overall in the 2015-16 series, head coach Andy Friend managed to mould his squad into an effective force, reaching two finals in Sydney and Las Vegas although losing out to New Zealand and Fiji respectively. In Dubai last year, Australia lost to Fiji 19-12 in the Cup quarter-finals and failed to beat South Africa in the Plate final.

Canada

  • Coach: Damian McGrath

  • 2015-16 series placing: 13th

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Nate Hirayama, 295 points / 27 tries
  • Best series finish: Sixth (1999-2000, 2013-14)
  • Series titles: 0

With former Samoa head coach Damian McGrath in charge, Canada will have a new look when they arrive in Dubai. They will be without the 'little magician' Phil Mack, but last year a number of players shone. With the likes of John Moonlight and Nathan Hirayama, there’s plenty of experience in the side to help them improve on their 13th place series finish.

England

  • Coach: Simon Amor

  • 2015-16 series placing: Eighth

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Tom Mitchell, 135 points / Dan Norton, 22 tries
  • Best series finish: Second (2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06)
  • Series titles: 0

A 28-17 loss to Fiji in the final last year in Dubai was the closest Simon Amor’s men came to a tournament win in 2015-16 but with a number of players coming back into the set-up following Team GB’s silver medal at the Olympic Games, they won’t be lacking experience. Captain Tom Mitchell leads from the front and there’s plenty of power and pace out wide, with the likes of James Rodwell, Dan Norton and Dan Bibby providing a varied skill set. However, New Zealand, Samoa and Russia make Pool C as tough as any in Dubai this year, so it’s all to play for.

Fiji

-Coach: Gareth Baber

  • 2015-16 series placing: Champions
  • 2015-16 tournament wins: Three
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Vatemo Ravouvou, 287 points / Savenaca Rawaca, 35 tries
  • Best series finish: Champions (2005-06, 2014-15, 2015-16)
  • Series titles: Three

Fiji arrive in Dubai not only as defending tournament and series champions, but also as Olympic gold medallists. Back in August they grabbed global headlines when they won their country’s first ever Olympic medal, emphatically beating Team GB 43-7 in the gold medal match. As defending champions, fans will be expecting a lot from the Pacific islanders.

France

  • Coach: Frederic Pomarel

  • 2015-16 series placing: 11th

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Terry Bouhraoua, 209 points / Virimi Vakatawa, 24 tries
  • Best series finish: Seventh (2003-04, 2005-06)
  • Series titles: 0

France finished 11th overall in the series in 2015-16 and were another side that showed inconsistency across the 10 tournaments. Third-place finishes in Cape Town and Paris were balanced out by a last-place in Vancouver and disappointing showing in Wellington. In Dubai last year they won the Bowl after beating Scotland 24-14 and with the wizardry of captain Terry Bouhraoua they are capable of going far when all cylinders are firing.

Kenya

Coach: Innocent Simiyu

  • 2015-16 series placing: Seventh
  • 2015-16 tournament wins: One
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Collins Injera, 172 points / 32 tries
  • Best series finish: Fifth (2012-13)
  • Series titles: 0

Consistency was hard to come by for Kenya in 2015-16. A first-ever tournament win in Singapore was tempered by a last-place finish in Vancouver but the right ingredients are there for a winning team. New head coach and former Kenya captain Innocent Simiyu joined the set-up in October and will bring a wealth of knowledge to an already experienced side, which includes the likes of all-time series top try scorer Collins Injera.

Japan

  • Coach: Damian Karauna

  • 2015-16 series placing: 15th (non core team)

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Katsuyuki Sakai 89 points / Kameli Soejima three tries
  • Best series finish: 14th (1999-2000)
  • Series titles: 0

The newly promoted side for the 2016-17 series after winning the qualifier in Hong Kong last April, Japan are without doubt a side to be reckoned with. At Rio 2016 they beat New Zealand for the first time ever and narrowly missed out on a bronze medal after losing to South Africa. They have what it takes to perform at the top level but the length of the series might cause them issues going into the latter rounds.

New Zealand

Coaches: Scott Waldrom / Tomasi Cama

  • 2015-16 series placing: Third
  • 2015-16 tournament wins: Three
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Gillies Kaka, 172 points / Rieko Ioane, 28 tries
  • Best series finish: Champions (12 titles, most recent in 2013-14)
  • Series titles: 12

Sir Gordon Tietjens stepped down as head coach after the Olympic Games, leaving as the most successful head coach of all time in rugby sevens. Filling that void in the interim will be Scott Waldrom and Tomasi Cama, with Clark Laidlaw set to take over in June 2017. A third-place finish in the series in 2015-16 will be seen as under-performing for a side with 12 series titles, so Dubai will be on their radar as a key launch pad to getting back to winning ways.

Russia

  • Coach: Andrey Sorokin

  • 2015-16 series placing: 14th

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Vladimir Ostroushko 136 points / 26 tries
  • Best series finish: 13th (2010-11)
  • Series titles: 0

As a new core team in 2015-16 Russia had a big challenge to get up to speed at the top level of the game and in Dubai their joint last finish was indicative of the quality of the teams involved in the series. After managing to avoid relegation at the HSBC London Sevens, Russia will have re-grouped over the summer and will be hoping to use Dubai as a kick-starter to their campaign.

Samoa

Coach: Gordon Tietjens

  • 2015-16 series placing: Ninth
  • 2015-16 tournament wins: One
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Tila Mealoi 234 points / Samoa Toloa 37 tries
  • Best series finish: Champions (2009-10)
  • Series titles: One

In October Samoa announced Gordon Tietjens as their new head coach, replacing Damian McGrath. Bringing vast experience after 22 years with New Zealand, Tietjens arrives to work with a squad that has showed glimpses of Samoa’s 2009-10 series-winning class. At the HSBC Paris Sevens in May, Samoa won their first Cup since Dubai in 2012 after beating Fiji 29-26.

Scotland

  • Coach: Calum MacRae

  • 2015-16 series placing: 10th

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: One
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Scott Wight, 226 points / Jamie Farndale, 27 tries
  • Best series finish: Seventh (2014-15)
  • Series titles: 0

An incredible first-ever tournament win capped off Scotland’s 2015-16 campaign, when they beat South Africa in a thrilling final at Twickenham. Dubai was more of a slow starter for head coach Calum MacRae, losing 24-14 to France in the Bowl final but the memories of last May in London might just be enough to take them into the business end of the tournament this time around.

South Africa

  • Coach: Neil Powell

  • 2015-16 series placing: Second

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: One
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Seabelo Senatla 330 points / 66 tries
  • Best series finish: Champions (2008-09)
  • Series titles: One

Four years as series runners-up must have head coach Neil Powell thinking what else he can do to get his side on top come the end of May. That said, South Africa were consistently a threat in the 2015-16 series, winning one tournament in Cape Town and reaching three other finals during the 10 rounds. In Dubai, they notched up their joint worst finish for the series, winning the Plate. Not a bad record, but they will be eyeing a Cup win this time around and a big start to their 2016-17 campaign.

Uganda

  • Coach: Tolbert Onyango

Uganda booked their place as the invitational side in Dubai after winning the Rugby Africa Sevens, where they beat Kenya and Zimbabwe en route to a final against Namibia, which they won 38-19. With a tough pool of South Africa, USA and Scotland it will be a big ask but as they showed in the Rugby Africa Sevens, they have the players to produce big performances. Dubai will make their return to the world series for the first time since George, in South Africa, in December 2007.

USA

  • Coach: Mike Friday

  • 2015-16 series placing: Sixth

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Madison Hughes 331 points / Perry Baker 48 tries
  • Best series finish: Sixth (2014-15, 2015-16)
  • Series titles: 0

After a disappointing Olympic campaign, the USA are hoping to replicate more of the form they showed in Dubai in 2015 when they beat New Zealand twice and finished third overall. Dubai was their joint best tournament finish for 2015-16 along with the HSBC London Sevens and undoubtedly head coach Mike Friday will expect nothing less from his side. They have pace and power but South Africa, Scotland and Uganda will be tough opponents in Pool B.

Wales

  • Coach: Gareth Williams

  • 2015-16 series placing: 12th

  • 2015-16 tournament wins: 0
  • 2015-16 top point/try scorer: Luke Treharne 132 points / 20 tries
  • Best series finish: Sixth (2006-07)
  • Series titles: 0

Head coach Gareth Williams will be keen to improve on his side’s 12th-place finish on the series last year and will be targeting a strong start in Dubai. Wales lost two of their three of their pool matches in Dubai last December, only narrowly beating Kenya 12-10. They reached the Plate semi-final but were thwarted 17-14 by Scotland after a late try by Robbie Nairn.