The Scotland leg of the popular IRB Sevens World Series begins today. New Zealand currently stand top of the table, 6 points ahead of perrenial rivals Fiji. With 2 events remaining and a potential 44 points on offer, this year's series looks like it's going to go down to the wire as always. Rather than predict a winner though, which is difficult due to Sevens' notoriously unpredictable nature...i've decided to go down a different route. In this post, Dumptackle outlines it's five players to watch during the Glasgow and Twickenham events. Read on to see who I think is going to tear it up this weekend!
Tim Mikkelson (New Zealand)
Tim Mikkelson is Mr NZ. He's an absolute workaholic on the field and has arguably been the most influential player in NZ sevens during the last few years. He may be underrated overseas but back at home his value is fully known. He's a real powerhouse. The Waikato man has the ability to run length of the field tries for his team and has dug NZ out of countless holes over the years. Whether it be scoring himself or setting up tries for speedsters such as Frank Halai or new sensation Waisake Naholo. His long strides defy just how much toe he has too.
However, Mikkelson's most valuable trait is a selfless ability to win turnover ball at the breakdown in combination with captain DJ Forbes. NZ's ability at the breakdown is what sets them apart and they can thank Mikkleson in part for their dominance in that area.
Alafoti Fa'osiliva (Samoa)
Samoan rugby players are usually tough, physical and uncompromising customers but this man is truly HUGE. He stands 6 foot 3 inches tall and clocks in at nearly 19 stone. Think modern day Lomu! Boy does he use that weight to his advantage too, regularly running over his opposites like a rampaging bull at Pamplona.
Fa'osiliva is the sevens equivalent of Tendai 'The Beat' Mtwarrira or for those of you with a slightly longer memory...Mark 'Bull' Allen of the Hurricanes in the 90's. You'll know when he's got his hands on the ball as the sound levels will suddenly lift to a whole new level. If you didn't know him before...you will after these events. Born to be a cult hero....
Dan Norton (England)
Dan's the speed man in the England team and pace in sevens is paramount. Every team needs their finisher and Norton is as good as it gets. With 33 tries to his name this season he is the top try scorer in the IRB World Sevens Series in 2012; six tries ahead of the next best, Frank Halai of New Zealand (another beast I was very tempted to include in this list).
He will use his electrifying pace to terrify their opponents and if England win the event, you can expect Norton's name to be flashing up in lights. Norton is the most likely England candidate to finish top scorer in the event so if you have a few dollars to spare, he's worth a cheeky punt at the bookies!
Ed Jenkins (Australia)
The Australian sevens team hasn't had as much success as their 15's counterparts, as their players seem to come and go regularly. They are building a good group of talented youngsters though....mostly around the ages of 18, 19 or 20. The Australian side is often amongst the youngest in the competition so Jenkins's experience is invaluable.
Ed Jenkins, at 25 years old, is the 'old head' in the Wallabies camp and he has marshalled his side superbly this year. The pinaccle being Australia's victory over Samoa in the Tokyo leg of the Series. They also beat the NZ team handsomly in warm up to this event in Glasgow. If Australia are to cause another shock, one can expect Jenkins to be at the heart and soul of Australia's performance.
Humphrey Kayange (Kenya)
Kenya...mere mention of their name gives a wry smile to many of those on the board of the IRB. They may not be a dominant force in 15s but their upwards surge in sevens has been something to behold; regularly beating some of the top sides in the IRB World Sevens Series.
They are incredibly athletic, as all African sides are, but also show a good tactical brain for sevens. They are the prime example that suggests sevens rather than 15's is more likely to be a truly global game. Captain Kayange has been the driving force behind their competitive performances. He's pulled on the Kenyan shirt with pride ands passion for many years and his long, rangy stride has helped him to score some important tries for his team over the years. If kenya get a medal, the crowd will go beserk.