The age of technology and specifically social media has added a whole new layer to the build up to each Sevens Word Series event.
We've seen over the last week the release of teams for the next two legs and has provided some real conversation and we've seen coaches and players jumping on through their online accounts and commenting on selections and giving their thoughts.
It is the world of transparency!
With the amount of video on teams and players add to the digital age and there is know where to hide, so the conversation and opinions on teams is a dramatic change from three years ago and is fantastic evolution in the game and the build up to the Series events.
What do we look for in the lead up to Dubai?
For coaches and players the biggest pieces are around the selections. As we've discussed, some teams turned up on the Gold Coast and really put forward a great first step in what is a marathon on the Sevens World Series. Now we look to see how they perform on the next stop and with a back-to-back format with South Africa following the week after.
The first layer is always around players who have returned from to the fold from injury.
Two notable players that need to be mentioned are Kyle Brown (SA Skipper) and Tom Mitchell (England Skipper).
Both of these players offer far more than just their skill and athleticism on the field. They both have incredible leadership skills and provide inspiration in those dark moments when a team needs to find a way to win. They provide a calm for their team in moments of chaos, but they are also the rudders that steers the ship.
I expect to see both of these players to make a huge impact on their respective teams both on and off the field. The next layer you look at is who is missing from the squads that battled it out on the previous leg on the Gold Coast?
Multiple situations force those omissions,
Injuries that occurred on the Gold Coast.
Injuries that have occurred during training in build up.
Poor performance on the Gold Coast.
Great performances leading to pro contracts else where
And the list goes on and on.
What we start to see is also the emergence of debutants through National Tournaments in countries like New Zealand. There have also been multiple invitational tournaments since the Gold Coast which have allowed coaches to evaluate additional players and these players have it all to gain. Dubai and Hong Kong are the two tournaments that I would class as the spots where stars are born. It is more likely for a debutant to blow the world away at one of these two tournaments as the focus and spotlight on these two tournaments versus the others is just that much more intense.
On the other hand, there are a few players that made their debut on the Gold Coast that now need to start building off that foundation or their stock will start to dwindle.
The Dubai/South Africa leg of the World Series is always the most intriguing and I have a sneaky suspicion that this one in particular is going to raise more than a few eyebrows.
Another layer to add to this is now the growing squad number that now has Sevens World Series experience.
What do I mean?
Well on the Gold Coast we had 12 players selected for a country and those players went out and battled hard. Now we have another squad named with a majority of those teams not selecting the exact same squad as the one that arrived on the Gold Coast, so with change come depth. Now a country has selected 12 players of which three are new, so those three additional players take that squad or depth to 15 players and this becomes incredibly important as the race for the Sevens World Series continues.
As a coach you have to find a sweet spot. You don't want to end a season having use 30 plus players as that would create to much disruption in a team and severely effect the team culture and dynamic. On the other hand, you don't want to go in to the back half of the series only having used 13 players as one or two injuries and a few other players get pulled for other reasons we mentioned above and now and heading in to the business end of the season with multiple debutants and expecting them to take on a job that has other players in rhythm.
Dubai is hot and dry, the playing surface is perfection and is exceedingly quick and the overall conditions allow for fast paced action, but really allow for running rugby at its finest and invites creativity and flair.
Who will put the next marker in the sand and set the new bar of competition?
By Matt Hawkins