THERE is an obvious danger in sitting out the first round of games in any sudden-death sevens tournament: being caught cold when you do get round to playing, especially if your opponents have already won one match and are therefore up to speed both mentally and physically. It is a danger which Scotland could face at the Rugby World Cup 7s in San Francisco, and one which head coach John Dalziel will aim to counteract by giving his team a pretty thorough work-out when the qualifying-round matches are held this evening (Friday).
As eighth seeds, Scotland have avoided the qualifying round and will await the winners of the Kenya v Tonga tie in tomorrow’s last 16. Given that, unlike in the World Series, there are no group stages in the RWC 7s, Dalziel’s squad cannot afford to take their time getting up to speed.
“I think with sevens, sometimes your first tie is the most difficult – certainly, once you get the lungs open a little bit you’re into your stride,” the coach said on Thursday. “So our strategy will work a little differently from the Series, and around the time the qualifying-round ties are happening we’ll do a sort of blow-out ourselves.
“We’ll replicate most of the physical things that could happen in that tie. We’ll go into that game pretty fresh, but also prepared accordingly.”
After seeing his team lose three out of their last four games against Kenya, Dalziel knows they will have to be at their best if they are to avoid a defeat which would see them demoted to the second-tier Challenge Trophy. “We’ve been up in three of the ties, and outscored them five tries to four last time we met in Paris,” he added. “It seems to be we start really well, get into positions to win the game, but haven’t been able to finish it off, so we’ve looked at that pretty hard. The group’s more experienced now, so I’m hopeful they can deliver more consistency.”
The squad have unveiled their new change strip – a radical departure which is predominantly green. As one of the seeds, however, they will wear their usual strips in the first match, so are not sure when they will first take to the field in their new colours.
Rugby World Cup Sevens (San Francisco, from today, Friday 20 July, all times BST):
Match 1: Kenya v Tonga (today 9.01pm BST)
Match 2: Canada v Papua New Guinea
Match 3: France v Jamaica
Match 4: Wales v Zimbabwe
Match 5: Samoa v Uganda
Match 6: Russia v Hong Kong
Match 7: Japan v Uruguay
Match 8: Ireland v Chile
Round of 16: Scotland v Kenya or Tonga (Saturday 3.03am)
Argentina v Match 2 winners
Australia v Match 3 winners
England v Match 5 winners
New Zealand v Match 6 winners
Fiji v Match 7 winners
South Africa v Match 8 winners
USA v Match 4 winners
Then EITHER: Challenge Trophy quarter-final (Sat 10.04pm BST) if Scotland lose to Kenya or Tonga.
OR: Championship Cup quarter-final (Sat 11.32pm BST) if Scotland beat Kenya or Tonga.