2017/18 HSBC World Sevens Series: Outright Preview

The 2017/18 HSBC World Sevens Series gets underway on Friday the 1st of December.

Over the past few years, Sevens Rugby has started to find a place at the forefront of both sports fans and rugby punters consciences. The fast-paced nature of the sport as well as the entertainment value on offer, both on and off the field, makes it one of the greatest viewing experience, even if you are just watching from the comfort of your home.

This variation of rugby received a whole new fan base in 2016 mainly due to its appearance at last year's Rio Olympics. Those newly garnered fans are in for an even bigger treat this season with a whole host of fantastic tournaments to look forward to.

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2017/18 Series Fixtures

The 2017/18 season will be one of the best Sevens seasons yet with both the Commonwealth Games as well as the Sevens World Cup adding to an already explosive fixtures list. And while neither of the aforementioned tournaments will count towards World Series points, punters will still be able to have an ante-post strike on the Outright Winner market for both tournaments.

Sevens Series Fixtures

Dubai: 1-2 December 2017
Cape Town: 9-10 December 2017
Sydney: 26-28 January 2018
Hamilton: 3-4 January 2018
Las Vegas: 2-4 March 2018

Vancouver: 10-11 March 2018
Hong Kong: 6-8 April 2
Singapore: 28-29 April 2018

London: 2-3 June 2018
Paris: 9-10 June 2018


Sevens World Cup

San Francisco: 20-22 July 2018

Commonwealth Games

Carra, Australia: 13-15 April 2018

Betting Markets

Outright Series Winner Market

At this time of the year, it's often prudent to take a look at the Outright Series Winner market as there's a massive amount on value on offer prior to the Series getting underway in Dubai on the first of December. We'll take a look at who the likely contenders for the Series title are near the tail-end of this piece

To Win Rugby 7's Series Outright
South Africa 13/10 | Fiji 5/2 | England 7/1 | New Zealand 7/1 | USA 14/1 | Australia 40/1 | Wales 50/1 | Samoa 50/1

Individual Tournament Ante-Post Betting

There's also ante-post betting available for the Outright Winner market for each tournament. These markets are generally priced up three days prior to each tournament's commencement date. 

Match Betting

As is the case with Rugby Union and Rugby League, you can have an ante-post strike on individual matches. There are two markets to be found here, namely the Straight Win market and the Handicap market.

Sevens is an extremely unpredictable sport which means there' a catch-22 for punters when it comes to match betting. The underdogs will often produce upsets, which is great if you can figure out which of the minnows is about to upset one of the big boys. On the other hand, what looks a sure fire bet on one of the big guns may never materialise due to the underdogs enjoying the rub of the green or simply having a blinder. Needless to say, betting on a favourite should be approached with severe caution.

Live In-Play Betting

Sevens is an extremely volatile sport, which means there won't be live betting available for each and every tournament, nor every single match at each tournament. You will still find a whole host of live betting available throughout the season. So make sure you check out the Hollywoodbets Live In-Play schedule a day or two before each tournament kicks off -- > Hollywoodbets Live In-Play

How Sevens Works

It's a rather simple game to understand if you're a follower of Rugby Union, as it's essentially a shortened version featuring seven men as opposed to 15. If you don't follow rugby, it may be prudent to watch a few tournaments before delving into individual match betting or the Live In-Play stuff.

Tournament Structure

Bar the World Cup and Commonwealth games, all the Sevens tournaments this year will feature an identical tournament structure. Each tournament is contested over two days, with the first day's play seeing sides contest Pool fixtures, while the second day is all about the knock-out fixtures.

During the Pool Phase, teams are split into four pools, with each pool allocated four sides. The teams are seeded prior to the tournament kicking off, so you generally have each featuring one of the big guns, a minnow, and then two of the mid-table sides.

South Africa, Fiji, New Zealand, the USA, and England will in all probability be the five strongest sides on this year's circuit. While Kenya, Australia, Scotland, Wales, France, Argentina, Canada, and Samoa, will be the teams likely to finish the season situated in the mid-table positions.

When it comes to the lowest ranked sides, there's quite a bit of turnover as one team is invited as a wild card to play certain tournaments. The wildcard entrant changes from tournament to tournament with the likes of Uganda and Brazil set to make appearances at certain stops. Russia, Japan and Spain are the three lowest ranked core teams, which means these three sides will participate in all the tournaments this term.

Match Structure, Rules and Points Scoring

Like Rugby Union, Sevens follows a five-point try-scoring system and a two-point conversion system. Drop-goals from general play are extremely rare, but if one does occur it will be worth three points.

There are no place kicks in Sevens, with teams attempting to add conversions through a drop-goal attempt. Another variation in Sevens is that the team that scored the try will restart the match with a drop goal, while in Union the team who conceded the try gets the kick-off.

Games are contested over two halves of seven minutes with a two-and-a-half minute break between each stanza. Each team consists of seven players with three forwards and four backs. Scrums are contested between three men from each side, while there are also lineouts.

2017/18 World Sevens Series Contenders

South Africa

2016/17 Finish: Champions
To Win Series Outright: 13/10

The 'Blitboks enjoyed a marvelous season last term winning half of the tournaments on the calendar on their way to finishing 28 points above second-placed England. The result of this is that, Neil Powell's charges head into this season as red-hot favourites with the 'books and are currently trading at 15/10 to defend their title.

Things won't be so easy for the South Africans this time around, however, as they will once again lose a plethora of players to Super Rugby contracts and their opposition will be a lot stronger this season than they were last.

Stalwarts Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith will link up with the Stormers and Lions respectively, come the close of the Hamilton tournament. While 2014/15 Sevens Player of the Year, Wener Kok, is also expected to link up with Senatla and the Stormers in early February.

With three big-name players set to go AWOL, one would think Powell would be struggling for depth. This is far from the case however with veterans Phillip Snyman, Cecil Afrika, Chris Dry, Branco du Preez and Kyle Brown all remaining with the squad.

A few of the younger brigade will need to step up to the plate cometh close of Hamilton, however.  Siviwe Sonwabile 'Shakes' Soyizwapi will have some big shoes to fill when Senatla jets off, while Blue Bulls forward Tim Agaba will need to step up his ferocity at the breakdown once Kwagga Smith departs.

Player to Watch: Cecil Afrika - Watch his highlights here
Cecil Africa can be described as the key conductor of this Blitzbok Opera with the playmaker dictating the speed of South Africa's play with absolute poise. Afrika is one of the elder statesmen in the squad and his experience and know how will be vital when it comes to integrating the young guns both on and off the field.

England

2016/17 Finish: Second
To Win Series Outright: 7/1

They were my dark horse for last year's World Series title and they almost delivered, missing out on their title by 28 points. The Roses were solid value last term and were the only side besides South Africa to win more than one tournament on the Circuit.

A lot of investment has gone into Sevens in England over the past few years and this has helped produce a solid national squad who have started to gel exceedingly well. They also know how to win when the odds are stacked against them a la last season in Cape Town where they defeated a much-fancied Blitzbok outfit in the final.

Player to Watch: Dan Norton - Watch his highlights here
The former Gloucester Rugby Academy representative is one of the most exciting players to watch on the Circuit. Blessed with incredible pace and a strong upper body, Norton is a try-scoring machine. He recently became the leading try-scorer in Sevens history and he'll be looking to add loads more five-pointers to his name this term.

Fiji

2016/17 Finish: Third
To Win Outright: 5/2

They may have failed to win the World Sevens Series but the Fijians still enjoyed an extremely productive year becoming the first ever Sevens Olympic Gold winners. This was a marvellous achievement for the Island nation whose countrymen had yet to experience the sweet taste of any Olympic glory.

Things did turn rather sour for the Fijians are their Olympic success, however, with long-term coach Ben Ryan getting the sack after a fallout with the Fijian Rugby Board.

Ryan isn't the only member of that Olympic set-up the Fijians will be without this year as former skipper Osea Kolinisau has opted to take up a contract with one of the franchises in the recently established Major League Rugby competition that will debut in America this year.

Player to Watch: Jerry Tuwai - Watch his highlights here
The Fijian playmaker is an absolute magician with ball-in-hand, conjuring up the most magical of moments with those feather-like gloves that he calls hands. Tuwai is also one of the true leaders in this sometimes fragile Fijian squad, and his mental fortitude will be required in spates if his side is to bring the World Series title home.

New Zealand

2016/17 Finish: Fourth
To Win Outright: 7/1

Long gone is the era of the all-conquering New Zealand Sevens outfit, with this current crop of Kiwis really struggling to impose themselves on the Series over the past two years. Aging legs and a lack of dynamic young talent have seen the once-mighty New Zealanders turn into, and I say this fearing a mammoth backlash from them this year, Series also-rans.

There is hope for the men from' The Land of the Long White Cloud' however, as they seem to have found an extremely promising young talent in the form of Villomoni Koroi. There's also a few more younger faces floating around the squad this year with both Regan Ware and Joe Webber bringing the average age of the squad down drastically. It looks as though New Zealand may have just strike the right balance between experience and youth, at least on paper that is.

Player to Watch: Villomoni Koroi - Watch his highlights here
The Whanganui born youngster only debuted for the New Zealand side last year but has already been tipped for massive things by all in sundry. Blessed with an electric turn of pace and a brilliant rugby mind, Koroi is likely to become a staple fixture in this year's New Zealand squad.

USA

2016/17 Finish: Fifth
To Win Series Outright: 14/1

It's not often that an American sporting outfit becomes everyone's favourite second side but this United States 7's squad has managed to win over the minds of rugby fans across the globe with their entertaining brand of Sevens.

The Americans enjoyed a solid if not spectacular 2016/17 season finishing as runners-up in Singapore and third at their own tournament. They will, however, be desperate to win at least one tournament this year. They also host the 208 Sevens World Cup, so expect them to put a lot of focus on that event.

Player to Watch: Carlin Isles - Watch his highlights here
The former track and field star continues to dazzle Sevens audiences with his fleet footwork and incredible speed. The American ace went through a bit of a rough patch last term but he'll no doubt return to his scintillating best this season.

Verdict: South Africa 15/10
They're tournament favourites for a reason. Blessed with pace, power and experience the Blitzboks certainly are the best looking horse heading into this long-distance race.

Fiji seemed way too mentally fragile last year, and the absence of Ben Ryan will not help their psyche. The States will once again threaten at a few tournaments but I can't see them putting in a sustained run.

The English and Kiwis are the only two threats to the Boks, well for my money at least.  The men from Europe have a solid squad who have been together for a long time while the Kiwis have experienced heads as well as a massive injection of youthful vitality. However, I just don't think either of these two sides will be consistent enough to steal the title from the holders. 


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