An A to Z of stars to watch in 2016
Our A to Z of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series so far, with Fiji and South Africa claiming a Cup apiece in Dubai and Cape Town in the men’s, and Australia beating surprise finalists Russia to the first women’s title in Dubai.
A – Willy Ambaka (Kenya) was dubbed the ‘Kenyan Lomu’ a couple of years ago and is back in contention after a stint playing club rugby in France. Typically strong going forward, he’s now added more brain to his game.
B – Terry Bourahoua (France) is the top point-scorer so far this season with 113 and has been brilliant as the diminutive captain of France, who qualified for the Olympics through Europe’s grand prix circuit. Joining him in the ‘Bs’ is England’s Dan Bibby who has been a mainstay for England under GB coach Simon Amor, and Kelly Brazier who was her usual outstanding self for New Zealand in Dubai.
C – Carlin and Cheslin. They sound like a musical double act – luckily for everyone else they’re on different teams. Carlin Isles has impressed off the bench for the US with his jaw-dropping pace, while Cheslin Kolbe’s balanced running and stepping is a joy to behold for South Africa.
E – Rodrigo Etchart has been excellent for Argentina, as has his young compatriot Bautista Ezcurra, who has risen up through the Under 20s this year and has a giant future ahead of him.
F – Fernando Luna’s power, straight running and offloading was another reason for Argentina reaching the Cup final in Cape Town.
G – Ellia Green, a former star of the track in Austalia, has serious ‘jet shoes’ and has worn them to good effect already this season. The Carlin Isles of the women’s game, nobody will be showing her the outside.. Special mention for Justin Geduld, excellent for the Blitzboks.
H – Madison Hughes the USA captain provides Eagles coach Mike Friday with the sort of intelligence at half back that he employed through Simon Amor and Ben Gollings in tandem while coach of England. The comparison may sound flattering but they are fair, this is some player and some leader.
I – Collins Injera is still going strong for Kenya and closing in on the all-time try scoring record. Now has 209 tries, behind Ben Gollings (220) and the leader, Argentina’s coach Santiago Gomez Cora (230)
J – Juan de Jongh – Relatively new to sevens but has a lethal step and has already proven himself as a starter for South Africa. Great also to see Craig Joubert back in sevens.
L – Jonathan Laugel may not be a household name, even in France, but he has been mightily impressive for les Bleus so far this season.
M- Tom Mitchell is still a key player for England and allows others to play around him. Will he captain Team GB?
N – He may not have burst onto the scene yet this season but he is fit and is bound to make an impact in 2016. Watch out for England’s Dan Norton.
O – Vladimir Ostroushko has scored eight tries at the top level for newly-promoted Russia so far this season. That’s ony three behind Seabelo Senatla at the top of the tree.
P – Perry Baker has suddenly stolen the show for the US, starting ahead of Carlin Isles.
R – Savenaca Rawaca burst on the scene for Fiji last season and has built on that form over the first two rounds of 2015-16.
S – Seabelo Senatla, Rossco Specman and Phillip Snyman were all immense for South Africa in Cape Town. Snyman is also a reliable leader for captain Kyle Brown to call on as deputy.
T – Pio Tuwai, the master of the offload in a team packed full of cavalier offloaders, but has added greater fitness to his game this season. A massive trump card for coach Ben Ryan.
V – Virimi Vakatawa, France’s Fijian-born dynamo, was the DHL ‘Impact player’ in Dubai, having got through more carries, offloads, line breaks and tackles than any other player.
W – Joanne Watmore was excellent for England in Dubai and you sense is a key player in deciding Team GB’s fortunes in Rio.
Z – (Cue shameless reference of only rugby player we can think of beginning with Z) Could Simon Zebo yet feature in the Olympics? Ireland’s men and women are still in the repechage process..