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Cut-throat format is the wrong fit for sevens, say England after Rugby World Cup final defeat

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 23/07/2018 Jack De Menezes

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera © Provided by Evening Standard Limited England led the calls for the new Rugby World Cup Sevens format to be scrapped after suffering an agonising final defeat New Zealand.

One day after winning the women’s event, the Kiwis replicated their 2014 clean sweep with a 33-12 victory over an England side that has now finished runners-up in the last two global tournaments.

The All Blacks never looked like losing the final as a Sione Molia double gave them an early lead. England’s brief fightback came through Mike Ellery and Ruaridh McConnochie tries, but Joe Ravouvou, Akuila Rokolisoa and Trael Joass secured the victory that saw them defend the title they won in Russia four years ago.

For the first time, every match in the tournament was a knockout clash and despite winning all three of their games to reach the final, both England head coach Simon Amor and captain Tom Mitchell called for World Rugby to resist the temptation to introduce the cut-throat format to the annual Sevens Series.

In the series I don’t think it works out well enough because the challenge you’ve got, one game on one day is not the nature of sevens,” Amor said.

“The game of sevens is about a couple of games each day but as a standalone one-off thing I think it’s quite exciting, it’s edge-of-the-seat kind of stuff and if you get one game wrong you’re gone, and that makes for great drama which I think is special.”

Mitchell, one of the star players in San Francisco as he provided the match-winning moment in narrow wins against both Samoa and the USA, added: “It has been interesting mixing it up, but I am not totally sold on the new format.

"There are pros and cons — it is up to World Rugby to keep mixing things up, keep it fresh and keep improving the game. As Sevens players we want to get out there, play good rugby and get people into the game.

“I think we need to look at the amount of people watching and playing it as well. That is something we try to work on in the UK — but sevens is a global game and I hope it can really become the truly global game it should be, in terms of participation.”

What proved a successful first major foray into America for World Rugby ended with a fitting final as two of the most notable rugby nations faced off in front of a crowd that ticked over 100,000 across the weekend, with around 35,000 inside San Francisco’s AT&T Park on Sunday alone. After seeing off South Africa in the semi-final, England were going for their first World Cup win since 1993, but could not match the All Blacks.


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