Sevens Series danger zone: the bottom seven

(IRB.COM) Thursday 28 March 2013
 
 Sevens Series danger zone: the bottom seven
Portugal are currently just inside the relegation zone but could leap-frog out of it with another Cup quarter-final appearance in Tokyo

At the final round of the HSBC Sevens World Series, the Marriott London Sevens in May, the three lowest-ranked of the current 15 core teams will have to play off for the three available core team places on the 2013/14 Series against Asian champions Hong Kong and the four teams who battled through pre-qualifying last weekend: Zimbabwe, Russia, Tonga and Georgia.

It is a scenario that every team wants to avoid so, with only two more rounds to play - in Tokyo and Glasgow - until the promotion / relegation cut-off, we assess the teams in or around the 'danger zone'.

WORLD SERIES STANDINGS >>

Canada - 9th, 51 Series points

Canada look a class act and fully deserve to be inside the top 10 this season. Their Plate runners-up place in Hong Kong took them to 51 points overall and, with a side rammed full of the country's finest talent, they should be good enough to keep themselves out of the relegation zone.

They line up in Tokyo against New Zealand and France and hosts Japan. With respect to the Tokyo hosts, the experienced Canadians should prove too strong for them, but their next match, against France, is their must-win pool game.

England - 10th, 50 points

England finished strongly in Hong Kong, Ben Ryan bullying a new-found attitude out of his side to claim the Bowl and take eight valuable points. But there is no hiding from the fact that they have only managed to reach one Cup quarter final in six rounds this season - in Wellington, where they went on to win the title.  

Facing the relegation play-off tussle at Twickenham would be ignominious to say the least and the 22 points from Wellington should be enough to keep them out of trouble. However, they do face the 'group of death' this weekend and will need to hit their straps from the first minute against Argentina, defending Tokyo champions Australia and Samoa, who beat them soundly last week.

Australia - 11th, 45 points

Michael O'Connor's side has reached three Cup quarter-finals this season, but has not progressed further than that in a Cup. Injured captain Ed Jenkins has been a big loss, but the return of James Stannard in Hong Kong seemed to inject a bit of belief into the side, and they will feel they have unfinished business from Hong Kong, where they went down to eventual champions Fiji and then Plate winners, Samoa.

They also face the 'group of death' this weekend with pool matches against Argentina, England and Samoa, who edged them in the Hong Kong Plate semi-final.

Scotland - 12th, 34 points

Scotland lie in 12th place in the standings, far closer to Portugal and the relegation 'danger zone' than the teams above them. While the Scots' Shield semi final finish last weekend added only one point to their season's rolling tally, the Portuguese notched 10 in reaching a third Cup quarter final this Series, which may yet prove crucial.

Stephen Gemmell's men line up in Pool B in Tokyo deperately needing to win two of their matches on day one against Kenya, Wales and USA.

Portugal - 13th =, 33 points

Portugal are the best of the sides currently in the 'relegation zone'. With their players stretched across 15-a-side and Sevens duties, the Lobos haven't always been at their best this season but the side that beat Scotland and Samoa in Hong Kong pool play last weekend is prettu much as good as it gets. They came so close to beating Kenya and making the Cup semi finals and Pedro Leal is the key man.

They will fancy their chances first up against Iberian neighbours Spain in Tokyo and they have also beaten South Africa this season, but they won't want to have to beat Fiji to make the Cup quarters.

USA - 13th =, 33 points

Equal on points with Portugal, the USA are also one big effort away from lifting themselves out of the relegation zone, although they do also rely on the teams above them slipping up. They lost out on valuable points by losing their Bowl semi final to Hong Kong last weekend and may come to rue that match come the end of the season.

In Tokyo they face a tough ask: Hong Kong runners-up Wales will be out to keep up their strong form, Kenya edged them by three points in pool play last week and Scotland are also scrapping for their lives.

Spain - 15th, 24 points

Spain have been brilliant on occasions this season and possess real game-breakers in the likes of captain Pablo Feijoo, big Javier Canosa and the season's fourth-highest try-scorer, Pedro Martin, but they are the only side not to have reached a Cup quarter final, which really hits their points tally.

Portugal is a must-win game for them, otherwise it will be an uphill battle against South Africa and Fiji, although they did give the islanders one of their toughest matches in Hong Kong.