RUGBY SEVENS – World Rugby’s Sevens Series returns this weekend with 16 teams participating in this year’s Wellington tournament in New Zealand. At Infostrada Sports, we have developed a world ranking for every Olympic sport with rugby sevens no exception before the sport’s inaugural Olympic Games appearance later this year. Fiji currently have a clear lead at the top of our standings while New Zealand have dropped to seventh position since they lost the number one spot to Fiji just under a year ago. The All Blacks Sevens last tournament victory was at the 2015 Wellington Sevens.
The Infostrada ranking uses results in all World Rugby Sevens Series matches, World Cup Sevens and continental tournaments with points switching from one team to another after each match depending on the relative strength of the two competing teams. Results in the Olympic tournament this year will also be added. As rugby sevens teams play so many matches each year, the ranking is a good reflection of the current playing strengths of the various competing teams.
Fiji have a big lead in the ranking which is hardly surprising as Ben Ryan’s team have won four of the last six tournaments on the World Series and have lost just three matches since their quarter-final defeat by England in Wellington last year. South Africa are ranked number two in the world after appearing on on the podium in seven of the last 10 tournaments, winning three. The United States have made big strides in the sport recently, winning last year’s final tournament in England and playing in the final of this season’s Dubai Sevens. The Americans are currently third, just ahead of England and Australia. There is a bigger gap between second and third on the ranking than there is between third and eighth so there is plenty of competitive balance present in rugby sevens at the moment.
Fiji’s rise up the standings coincides with the period in which Ben Ryan has been head coach. The Englishman took over in September 2013 with the Pacific Islanders in fifth position on the Infostrada world ranking. Within two months, they were in the top three and just under a year ago, on February 15, 2015, Fiji took over the number one position from New Zealand. The Fijian team has only strengthened its top rank since then with South Africa, Australia and, at the Cape Town Sevens, France the only teams to beat them since.
Fiji have won their last six matches against former number one team New Zealand, including three tournament finals in Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Glasgow. The last time that the All Blacks Sevens beat Fiji was a narrow 12-10 win in the semi-finals of the London tournament in May 2014.
In contrast to Fiji, New Zealand have continued to decline since losing the number one spot after last year’s Wellington Sevens. At this year’s competition, Rugby World Cup 2015 winner Sonny Bill Williams will play for the first time for the All Black Sevens and the whole of New Zealand will be hoping that Sonny Bill’s presence changes their fortunes. Since losing the number one spot to Fiji, the All Black Sevens have lost 13 of their 41 matches in the world series and even been held to a draw by Portugal. At the last tournament in Cape Town, New Zealand lost to Argentina and were then beaten by the United States for the third successive time.
Wellington is a chance for the All Blacks Sevens to begin a possible return towards the top before the Olympic Games in just over six months. With so little between the teams from third to eighth on the current Infostrada ranking, it is possible to jump back up into the top three in one tournament. Whether home advantage will help with that aim is something which will be revealed this weekend.