Some of the greatest attacking players to have ever played the fifteen-man game cut their teeth in the seven-man version of rugby, where the open space and attacking mentality fully allows the instinctive, creative and the naturally explosive to excel. World class players like Lomu, Cullen, Dallaglio, Skinstad, and Burke, to name but a few, all made their first international strides at the sevens level before going on to star for their respective countries at fifteen-a-side. But the weight of evidence suggests that the greatest sevens players tend not to have the same impact in the fifteen-man game: Serevi, Gollings, Cama, Valance, Ryder and so on. Therefore, the RR takes a look at the players in this year’s World Cup Sevens that could make an impact in the fifteen-man game in the near future.
Seabelo Senatla, wing, South Africa
Senatla has been in fine form all season. The youngster performed well in the Sevens World Series this year and then scored a tournament leading seven tries in the recently completed 2013 Junior World Championship. So far in his fledgling career, Senatla has shown that he has a real nose for the try line, mixing lethal finishing which enables him to score from anywhere on the field with an opportunistic streak which allows him to cash in on other teams mistakes. His confidence should be sky high entering this tournament and, along with the other South African JWC standout Cheslin Kolbe, should give South Africa some youthful exuberance to go along with the established stars Hendricks and Dry. South Africa are second favourites behind New Zealand for a reason; do not be surprised if Senatla turns heads at this tournament and goes on to have Currie Cup success later in the year.
Gillies Kaka, utility, New Zealand
Kaka has been quietly improving his fifteen-man game over the last few years with some fine performances for Hawke’s Bay in last year’s ITM Cup. However, after he failed to secure a Super rugby contract and put in another fine performance at the National Sevens in Queenstown, Kaka was promoted to the New Zealand national team and hasn’t looked back. Kaka has shown for some time that he has real x-factor; he has a lovely step and can explode through gaps. He is also a fine exponent of the grubber and chip kicks and has shown he can create and score stunning tries out of nothing. His defence is a major concern and could explain his lack of progress in the fifteen-man game. However, many will remember Cory Jane’s early days in the sevens set up and his defensive frailties, so perhaps there is still hope for Kaka moving forward.
Matt Lucas, scrum-half, Australia
The diminutive scrapper Matt Lucas may only stand 1.74m tall and weigh 80kgs dripping wet but his sevens form in 2011-12 and his brief cameos for the Waratahs in this year’s Super Rugby suggest he has a decent future in the game. Lucas made a name for himself by nailing a pressure-filled full time drop kick conversion to give Australia a memorable victory in the 2012 Tokyo sevens against Samoa. On the back of two years in the Australia U20s and his stellar sevens performances, Lucas was picked in the Waratahs extended player squad for this season. Few would have expected too much from him this year but his brief cameos have left many Tahs’ supporter calling for him to replace the often under-fire Brendan McKibbin. Lucas has knack for improving players outside him and if he links well with Bernard Foley and Lewis Holland then Australia could shock some of the more fancied teams in Moscow.
Marcus Watson, wing, England
While the other English standouts Dan Norton and Mathew Turner often get much of the media attention and accolades, those that have kept up with fluctuating fortunes of the English sevens team in 2012-13 will likely point to Marcus Watson as being the most influential player. The older brother of current English U20 flier Anthony Watson, Marcus has had a taste of Premiership football but decided to focus on Sevens full time in 2012. He scored 27 tries in the Sevens World Series, good enough for fifth overall, and has the attributes you would expect of a winger – speed, finishing ability and elusiveness. However, Watson also has a good ticker and keeps going and going when others around him fall away due to the physical demands of sevens. His tournament saving tackle in the 2013 Wellington sevens final exemplifies his attitude and ability. If the rest of his team can feed off this then perhaps England can rediscover their form in Moscow and make a push for the title.
Jean-Marcellin Buttin, full back, France
Buttin is a name that some may be familiar with, given that he has played a fair bit with Clermont Auvergne and even earned a full senior cap with France in the 2012 Six Nations. However, despite some promising displays, Buttin’s career has yet to take off as one would have hoped or expected. Six tries in a largely auxiliary role for Clermont in 2013 is a nice return but he remains stuck behind a number of international and big name players, a definite hindrance for his potential development. However, his inclusion in the French squad for the Sevens World Cup as the only club contracted player is a real boon for the French as Buttin is a class act. Although his kicking ability will be largely redundant, his scything runs and power-speed combo should transfer well to sevens and he could be a real weapon if he meshes well with the brilliance of Terry Bouhraoua.
Who will be lifting the 2013 RWC in Moscow?