The Commonwealth Games has been beset by negative news stories in Delhi ranging from sanitation to corruption. Athletes have been pulling out in many events and stadia have been collapsing all about town. However, amongst these reduced capacity line-ups and sob stories, one sport has been gearing up for an elite championship with the world’s best attending.
That is the glorious sport of rugby sevens. Fresh from its inclusion in the 2016 Olympics and a scintillating season culminating in Samoa taking their first ever world series, sevens is set to light up the Delhi Games over two absorbing days.
The only major player missing from the event is the Fijians who were ejected from the Commonwealth following a military coup in 2006. Their flair and aggression will be missed but the other top teams including New Zealand, England, Australia, South Africa, Samoa, Wales and Kenya will ensure that the standard of competition eclipses most of the other sports in Delhi.
The English squad have taken a particularly determined approach to winning the gold here, having been together for 12 weeks prior to the competition. With young flyers such as Dan Caprice and Dan Norton alongside experienced old heads such as Ben Gollings and Isoa Damudamu they have to rate their chances to qualify from their group containing Sri Lanka, Uganda and Australia.
The Australians have brought in 15s star Lachie Turner to bolster their ranks and recalled top try scorer from seasons past Luke Morahan so will feel equipped to match England’s aspirations to top the pool.
Wales’ squad includes current Rugby Sevens World Cup holders Richie Pugh and Lee Williams alongside youngster Tom Prydie. Tough matches against Tonga and South Africa as well as an altogether easier run out against hosts India will provide an interesting test for the Welsh squad.
Scotland have brought in John Houston and Andrew Turnbull to their squad so they too will have hopes of reaching the latter stages. New Zealand and Canada will provide the toughest tests especially as the All Blacks have brought in the big names of Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford and Ben Smith.
You can catch the group stages on Monday with the knockouts on Tuesday – the medal matches begin at 11:50am on Tuesday.
Who are you tipping for Commonwealth gold?
By Jon Hobbs