Starmers: Hong Kong Sevens form guide
TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith provides a thoroughly researched and fascinating form guide to the 16 teams in the main competition of the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
There's never been a season like this one: five tournaments and already different Cup winners. Cup champions and runners-up have risen magnificently to scale dizzy heights, only to fall from grace just a week later. New 'core' team upstarts have knocked over 'leading' rugby nations, making the IRB World Rankings for the 15-a-side game almost an irrelevance to the shorter, Olympic version of the sport.
Never before have we seen such competition on the opening day's play, the pool rounds having been injected with a new venom. In fact there has never been quite such excitement and uncertainty from game one right through to 45, the Cup final!
My list below orders the nations by matches won this season, with their current position in the HSBC Sevens World Series in brackets.
1st (most wins) New Zealand (1st - in the HSBC Sevens World Series)
Played: 30 Won: 23 Lost: 7
The only truly consistent team this season and amazingly also the only side to have reached all five Cup quarter-final rounds. On the evidence of what we've seen so far, they're still a cut above the rest over the course of an entire season.
Results: 1 x Cup title (PE); 3 x Cup runners-up; 1 x 3rd Place.
Defeats: SA (2), Fiji (2), England, Samoa
2= South Africa (2nd)
Played: 29 Won: 20 Lost: 9
The only nation to have won every game in a single tournament, en route to winning the last round in Las Vegas. Not always a consistent force, though, finishing as runners-up in the Bowl in Dubai.
Results: 1 x Cup title (US) 2 x 3rd; 1 x loser Plate semi; 1 x loser Bowl Final
Defeats: Samoa (2), Australia, Kenya, Canada, NZ, Argentina, Portugal, Fiji.
2= Samoa (3rd)
Played: 29 Won: 20 Lost: 9
Similar inconsistency to the South Africans, they won the title in Dubai and a week later failed to reach the quarter finals, losing in the Bowl.
Results: 1 x Cup title (Dubai); 1 x 3rd, 1 x 4th; 1 x loser Plate semi, 1 x loser Bowl
Defeats: SA (2), Eng (2), Aus (2), France, Fiji, NZ.
4th Fiji (4th)
Played: 29 Won: 18 Lost: 11
Have suffered losses against eight different nations this season, which is unsurprising given the union's erratic player selection policy: 30 players already used - including 19 debutants - with only Ilai Tinai and Joji Raqamate featuring in all five tournaments.
Results: 1 x Cup title (Gold Coast); 1 x 4th; 1 x loser Plate final; 1 x loser Plate semi; 1 x loser Bowl final
Defeats: Australia (2), Scotland (2), Wales (2), Samoa, NZ, Canada, Argentina, France
5th Australia (11th)
Played: 28 Won: 16 Drawn: 1 x Lost: 11
This shows how deceptive statistics can be. At one stage this season Australia went 10 games unbeaten but they have only reached two Cup quarter-finals, losing both. Seven of their wins have come in the Plate, Bowl and Shield.
Results: 1 x Plate title, 1 x loser Plate semi final; 1 x Bowl title, 1 x Shield title, 1 x loser Shield semi
Defeats: France (2), England (2), Argentina, Kenya, Scotland, SA, NZ, Samoa, Spain
6th Wales (8th)
Played: 28 Won: 16 Lost: 12
Highs and lows this season, exemplified by their two wins and two losses against South Africa. Two Plate wins but yet to look like real challengers in a Cup.
Results: 2 x Plate titles; 1 x loser Plate semi, 1 x loser Bowl semi, 1 x Shield title
Defeats: NZ (3), SA (2), Samoa (2), Argentina (2), Scotland, Spain, France
7th Argentina (7th)
Played: 29 Won: 16 Lost:13
A gradual improvement throughout the season with early wins against South Africa, England and Fiji, but lost the Bowl final to France last time out in Las Vegas.
Results: 1 x 3rd, 1 x Plate title, 1 x loser Plate semi, 1 x Bowl title, 1 x loser Bowl final
Defeats: France (3), NZ (3), Wales (2), Kenya (2), SA, Scotland, Samoa
8th Kenya (6th)
Played: 28 Won: 15 Drawn: 1 Lost: 12
Spectacularly capricious, but overall a significant improvement under Mike Friday, as witnessed in beating New Zealand in Wellington in a Cup semi final. You have to be a good team to do that. However, they hit rock bottom a week later in losing the Shield semi final in Las Vegas, so anyone's guess.
Results: 1 x Runner-up Cup Final (NZ), 1 x 3rd (Dubai), 1 x 4th, 1 x loser Bowl semi, 1 x loser Shield semi
Defeats: SA (2), Australia (2), NZ (2), Samoa, Canada, Fiji, England, Wales, France
9th Canada (10th)
Played: 29 Won: 15 Drawn: 1 Lost: 14
First season back as a 'core' team and already increasingly competitive. Close matches early on in the season with NZ and England and latterly impressive wins over Fiji and South Africa. One of the finishers of the season in Sean Duke.
Results: 1 x Plate title, 1 x loser Plate final, 1 x Bowl title, 1 x loser Bowl semi, 1 x loser Shield semi
Defeats: Wales (2), NZ (2), SA (2), Samoa (2), England, Kenya, Spain, Portugal, USA
10th France (5th)
Played: 29 Won: 15 Lost 14
Definitely climbing the ladder and currently fifth overall, the majority of their defeats having been by small margins and they've had some key wins. Three Cup quarter finals already and a Cup final in South Africa, where they were beaten by New Zealand.
Results: 1 x Cup runner-up (SA), 1 x 4th, 1 x loser Plate final, 1 x Bowl title, 1 x loser Bowl semi
Defeats: Argentina (3), Kenya (2), Samoa (2), NZ (2), SA (2),Wales, Canada, Fiji.
11th England (9th)
Played: 28 Won: 14 Drawn: 2 Lost: 12
Probably the most unpredictable team of the season - unbeaten when winning the Cup title in Wellington with wins over NZ and Samoa, followed a week later by three pool losses in Las Vegas, where they finished as losing Bowl semi finalists.
Results: 1 x Cup title (NZ), 1 x loser Bowl final, 2 x loser Bowl semis, 1 x Shield title
Defeats: Portugal (2), Fiji (2), Samoa (2), France, Scotland, NZ, Argentina, SA, Spain
12th Scotland (12th)
Played: 28 Won: 10 Lost: 18
Lost eight of their nine pool games in the first three tournaments but enjoyed a dramatic uplift thereafter, making the Cup quarters in the two most recent events with wins over England and Fiji. The biggest improvers of the season.
Results: 2 x Plate runners-up, 1 x loser Bowl semi, 1 x Shield title, 1 x loser Shield semi
Defeats: England (3), Australia (3), Fiji (3), Kenya (2), Tonga, Argentina, Spain, Zimbabwe, NZ, Canada, Samoa
13th: Spain (15th)
Played: 28 Won: 11 Lost: 17
Second of the three new 'core' teams and had a dream start to the season, winning the Bowl on the Gold Coast with wins against Wales and England. Still settling in, but increasingly competitive in recent tournaments.
Results: 1 x Bowl title, 2 x loser Bowl semi, 1 x Shield title, 1 x loser Shield final
Defeats: Kenya (3), England (3), USA (2), Argentina (2), Samoa (2) Fiji, Wales, Canada, NZ, Australia
14th Portugal (14th)
Games played: 25 Won: 6 Lost:19
The third new 'core' team this season. Had an apprehensive start, losing all five games first up in Australia but found their feet next time out in Dubai to reach the Cup quarters with wins over defending champs England and South Africa in their pool. They have thrown some young debutants in at the deep end, but they're quick and they've shown a lot of promise.
Results: 2 x loser Plate semi, 3 x losers Shield semis
Defeats: Scotland (3), Fiji (3), Spain (2), Canada (2), France(2), Argentina, Wales, NZ, Samoa, Tonga, Australia, Uruguay
15th USA (13th)
Games played: 26 Won: 5 Drawn: 1 Lost: 20
Shows that results can be deceptive with recent narrow defeats to some of the leading teams, such as 17-10 against NZ, 21-19 against Fiji, 12-7 to Samoa and 12-12 versus England. Expect future success when those start to edge their way.
Results: 2 x loser Plate semis, 1 x loser Bowl semi, 2 x losers Shield semis
Defeats: Wales (3), Canada (3), NZ (2), SA (2), Australia (2), Fiji (2), Spain (2), Scotland, France, Samoa, Portugal
N/A Hong Kong (1st appearance this season)
Hong Kong take their place in the main competition on home soil by virtue of the fact that they are the reigning Asian Sevens champions, a title they clinched in the final of the Mumbai Sevens by beating Japan 28-7. They have also qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June. No exposure on the Series yet this season but they took part in the Harare Sevens recently, where they were beaten by hosts Zimbabwe 35-7 but got the better of Georgia 21-19.
So there you have the form ... Never has it been more difficult to predict!
Nigel Starmer-Smith commentates for television on all nine rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Series qualifying explained: Hong Kong & London
From the end of the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series, promotion and relegation from core team status comes into effect, with a pre-qualifying competition in Hong Kong (round 6) and a final core team qualifier in London (round 9).
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will feature 28 teams and two competitions: In the first, the 15 current core teams and the winner of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, Hong Kong, will compete for the famous Hong Kong title and World Series points. In the second, 12 regional teams - two from each of the six IRB regions - will compete for four places at the core team qualifying final in London.
The Marriott London Sevens will feature 20 teams and two competitions: In the first, the top 12-ranked sides in the HSBC Sevens World Series after round 8, the Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens, will compete for the London title and final World Series points. In the second, the 13th-, 14th- and 15th-ranked core teams after the Glasgow event will compete against the four qualifiers from Hong Kong and Asian champions Hong Kong for the three available core team places on the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series.
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