Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Bulk of article courtesy of IRB.com
Wales Sevens coach Paul John has named three new caps in his squad to compete at the NZI Sevens this weekend, the third leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Dragons scrum half Nicky Griffiths, Pontypridd’s Adam Thomas and Aberavon’s Ricky Thomas will all step into the Sevens cauldron for the first time at a packed Westpac Stadium on Friday.
Another notable change is in the outside back division, where Alex Cuthbert’s inclusion after recovering from injury offers the perfect foil to the stocky wing, Ifan Evans.
“We are pleased with our return from the first two tournaments of the season in Dubai and George. We got to the Cup quarter finals both times, which is something we haven’t done before, and were competitive in both,” said John, who led Wales to the Rugby World Cup Sevens title in Dubai in 2009.
“That has to be our primary aim in these two tournaments – to get out of our Pool. It will be tough because we have some new players and it will take them a while to get up to speed in an international Sevens competition.”
After the first two events of the season in Dubai and South Africa, the Welsh lie in joint-seventh position in the overall standings with Argentina on 12 points. The USA is right behind Wales in the standings and have a golden opportunity to match them this coming weekend in Wellington.
Team USA and Wales square off in Pool A in Wellington and their matchup will be one of the pivotal games in the pool. The winner will likely advance to the Cup Quarterfinals and nab instant World Series points.
Team USA brings, arguably, one of their most experienced squads ever to Wellington and come off a productive camp. Wales, on the other hand, are bleeding new players and struggled to prepare for the tournament.
“We haven’t had much preparation time as a 12-man squad but I know the players will all be 100% committed. The selection is a great reward for Ricky and Adam and their Principality Premiership clubs, while Nicky Griffiths has been training with us since before the Commonwealth Games but has missed out through injury so he gets a chance to show what he can do,” added John.
“It’s pleasing to see some of our squad players from last season doing so well for their Regions this season – Ashley Beck was with us for the first two tournaments last season and Justin Tipuric, who spent all of last season with us, is pushing Marty Holah for the Ospreys No 7 shirt, which is great to see.”
Wales kick off the Wellington 7’s against dangerous regional qualifiers Cook Islands before their important matchup with the USA and then finish pool play against World Series leaders England.
Wales Sevens squad for New Zealand and USA Sevens:Lee Rees (Scarlets), Rhys Jones (Newport), Gareth Davies (Cardiff), Rhodri Gomer-Davies (Dragons), Ifan Evans (Llandovery), Rhys Shellard (Cardiff), Richie Pugh (Scarlets), Alex Cuthbert (Blues), Jevon Groves (capt, Dragons), Nicky Griffiths (Dragons), Adam Thomas (Pontypridd), Ricky Thomas (Aberavon)