Second IRB Women’s Sevens World Series kicks off

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Canada and France will kick off the Dubai 7s on Thursday morning, launching the Second Women’s Sevens World Series.  The Women’s Sevens will be followed by the mens Sevens World Series that begins on Friday.  The women’s series of the Dubai 7s will be streamed live on http://wsws.irb.com/

12 teams will be competing in the five leg series that will lead them to Amsterdam on May 17, 2014. A sixth leg of the series has yet to be announced.

Huriana_Manuel-1200Winners of last years inaugural women’s world series, New Zealand will no doubt find the competition more challenging and look to make a dominant start in Dubai.  New Zealand play Fiji, Ireland and the United States in the pool stages on Thursday.  Captain Huriana Manuel led her side to victory in the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow and with that confidence they are the side to beat.

Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, Spain and USA are core teams on the 2013/14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series after reaching the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013. The eight core teams will compete across all rounds of the Series. – wsws.irb.com

Tunisia, Brazil, Fiji and France round out the 12 teams participating in the Dubai 7s.

IRB Women’s Sevens World Series 2013/14: Dates and Venues:

First leg: Dubai, United Arab Emirates – November 28-29, 2013
Second leg: Atlanta, Georgia, USA – February 15-16, 2014
Third leg: Arena Barueri, São Paulo, Brazil – February 21-22, 2014
Fourth leg:
 Guangzhou University Town Stadium, Guangzhou, China – April 4-6 2014
Fifth leg: National Rugby Centrum, Amsterdam, Netherlands – May 16-17, 2014

Barbarians side named for Saturday

500x370_0On Saturday, November 30th, the Barbarians will play Fiji at Twickenam.  The side assembled by coach Steve Hansen, will be led by Jean de Villiers and include an exciting range of talent from experienced veterans to promising players who make up the next generation of international rugby.

De Villiers, undoubtedly one of the best mid-fielders in the world, is an automatic selection as captain.  An inspirational leader and all round sportsman, de Villiers follows in a line of class acts to lead the invitational team.

The 23 man squad includes 9 Springboks, 8 All Blacks and 5 Pumas.  Manu Samoa player Gavin Williams rounds out the side which does not feature a single Australian international.  Perhaps Australian rugby’s lack of player depth made it difficult for Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie to release any players for the match.  Whatever the reason, it has not hurt the side Hansen has selected.

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The New Zealand rugby system typically does such a good job of keeping its players from taking their careers off shore, that playing for the Barbarians offers a rare opportunity for current All Blacks.  I expect it will be a real treat for Hansen and the 8 All Blacks named to the side to work alongside de Villiers and fellow internationals from the southern hemisphere.  It wasn’t until Richie McCaw accepted an invitation to play with the Barbarians in 2008 that he realized what lasting friendships he could make beyond national borders.  With All Blacks and Springboks emerging from the trenches to play side-by-side, Richie struck up a lasting friendship with Schalk Burger.

Burger will be joining de Villiers with fellow South Africans Willie le Roux, Pat Lambie, Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, Coenie Oosthuizen, Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis.

The Argentinian contingent of the squad includes Santiago Cordero, Martin Landajo, Guillermo Roan, Matias Diaz and Manuel Carizza.

Though New Zealand veteran Keven Mealamu has been named to the bench, he leads a group of 7 young All Blacks in their first taste in the Barbarians jersey, including Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Dominic Bird, TJ Perenara, Steven Luatua,  Tom Taylor and Luke Whitelock.

Named in the Starting XV, uncapped half back TJ Perenara will get a chance on the pitch after missing out during the All Blacks End of Year tour.  The Hurricanes Half Back was unable to get any game time in Ireland, the scoreline was too close for Hansen to bring him off the bench.  The test was not won until the 81st minute.

The match kicks off at 14:30 GMT.

Barbarians team to play Fiji

15 Santiago Cordera
14 Frank Halai
13 Gavin Williams
12 Jean de Villiers (captain)
11 Charles Piutau
10 Patrick Lambie
9 T J Perenara
1 Tendai Mtawarira
2 Bismarck du Plessis
3 Matias Diaz
4 Flip van der Merwe
5 Dominic Bird
6 Steven Luatua
7 Schalk Burger
8 Duane Vermeulen

16 Keven Mealamu
17 Guillermo Ruan
18 Coenie Oosthuizen
19 Manuel Carizza
20 Luke Whitelock
21 Martin Landajo
22 Tom Taylor
23 Willie le Roux

2013 – The All Blacks Perfect Year

Kieran_Read-1200Two years have passed since the All Blacks wonthe 2011 World Cup and they have only tasted defeat once in the last 35 games!  2012 saw a draw against Australia and a loss to England as the only blemish, however 2013 has been nothing but the win column for New Zealand.  Despite their record this year, most victories were hard fought with tougher opponents.  The match against Japan being the only test that was not competitive.

Seeing the team come back from behind to win in high pressure games with electric atmospheres has been a delight.  It is encouraging for New Zealand to be less than two years out from the 2015 World Cup with their youngsters so battle-hardened already.

Although the Web Ellis Cup had to handed over to the English Rugby Football Union for their promotion and build up to the 2015 World Cup the New Zealand Rugby Union’s trophy cabinet is as full as it has ever been.  The trophies collected in 2014 include the Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup, Freedom Cup, Dave Gallaher Trophy, and Hillary Shield.

Last year the All Blacks dominated the breakdowns, but this year it’s been the reverse.  The tactic of keeping more players on their feet for attacking and counter attacking opportunities began to overstay its welcome during the End of the Year tour.  The vulnerability at the ruck will have to be addressed and new tactics found for the All Blacks to continue producing wins in 2014.

There have been many impressive players on the team this year, including Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Charles Piutau, Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane.  It’s hard to pick just one, though I think I have to go with Kieran Read.

All Blacks 2014 record with game reviews.  Follow the links.

Played 14: Won 14, Lost 0, Drawn 0.

Vs France – won – 23-13

Vs France – won – 30-0

Vs France – won – 24-9

Vs Australia – won – 47-29

Vs Australia – won – 27-16

Vs Argentina – won – 28-13

Vs South Africa – won – 29-15

Vs Argentina – won – 33-15

Vs South Africa – won – 38-27

Vs Australia – won – 41-33

Vs Japan – won – 54-6

Vs France – won – 26-19

Vs England – won – 30-22

Vs Ireland – won – 24-22

Points scored: 454

Points conceded: 239

Tries: 51

Most tries: Ben Smith (11), Julian Savea (7), Kieran Read (6)

Most points: Aaron Cruden (107), Dan Carter (57), Ben Smith (55)