Why 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens is unforgiving

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Saturday, July 21st 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Rugby
[PHOTO: COURTESY]

It was not business as usual in the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens that began last night at the iconic AT&T Park in San Francisco, USA.

Though exciting, the new innovative format is somehow unforgiving as it leaves no room for complacency and error not only for Kenya but all the participating 24 men's teams.

It presents an extraordinary challenge with every match going to count in the new single elimination knockout format.

Unlike the previous editions where teams had time to bounce back after a slow start to their round robin grouped tournament before advancing to the knockout rounds, this weekend’s competition will leave teams on a knife edge from the opening game.

That means, in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, teams will have to win every match to be crowned World Cup winners tomorrow.

From kick off (11.01pm) when Shujaa clashed with Tonga in the opening match, only winners progressed to the next round with losers dropping to the placement matches.

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Eight seeded teams led by champions New Zealand, World Series Champions South Africa, Fiji, Australia, England, Argentina, Scotland and the United States were already waiting for the preliminary round winners in the pre-quarter-finals.

If Innocent Simiyu's charges beat Tonga, then Scotland was next for the two time World Cup semifinalists (2009-Dubai, 2013-Moscow), they will get through that early morning fixture and face another Herculean task against continental rivals South Africa in the last eight.

In an interview with the Standard Sports, Kenya Rugby Union Media Officer Michael Kwambo said: "It is a difficult but exciting format at the same time. If you look at the previous formats, teams knew they had the luxury of at least two wins out of three games. But things have now changed and the interesting thing is that everyone will have to bring their A-game right from the start. Literally, every game is like a final."

"On the flip side, this tournament will also give underdogs a chance. There is no room for complacency and every game counts. It is a tricky one, but that's what Cup competitions should be all about," added Kwambo, a former KCB and Impala winger.

Former Kenya coach Mike Friday whose USA side was due to meet either Wales or Zimbabwe in the pre-quarters this morning (7.37am), also weighed into the debate, labelling the new format 'unforgiving'.

“If we are fizzing, confident and on point come match day, we will be contenders in this unforgiving format," Friday was quoted on The Guardian.

His Australia counterpart Tim Walsh said: “The format is different and being adaptive and agile is the environment of international sevens.

“Teams will be well equipped and prepared in anticipation for this prestigious event. There has to be a winner and loser and potentially, every moment of every game could be the difference.

“We are used to playing six games over two days and not four games over three days, so in order to replicate the Rugby World Cup format we have adjusted our training and strategies to assist with our mental preparation.”

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