Rugby Sevens: New Zealand’s comeback, Hooper debuted and Moneta set off Olympic alarms

The top winners celebrated their first title of the year against France, which without Dupont won a medal again; the former Australian captain played four games and did not score tries; the Argentine figure was fractured and his presence in Paris is threatened.

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The euphoria of the New Zealand national teams to win the double title in Hong Kong. 
Credits: HSBC SVNS
The euphoria of the New Zealand national teams to win the double title in Hong Kong. Credits: HSBC SVNS

Takeoff point. Transformation and continuity. Alert status. All the dimensions that coexisted during the most recent stay of the Seven Series in Hong Kong made the second last of the seven stages of the regular season one of the most important on the road to the Madrid finals, especially since the protagonists of each of them stand out above average in the oval universe.

The All Blacks Sevens are, in imprecise order, the current Olympic runner-up and the winner of 14 of the 23 trophies since the launch of the World Series in 1999, including the last one; a supremacy that had not renewed its credentials on the current circuit since the competition cadres betrayed a final in Vancouver as the most auspicious result. Sunday’s title symbolized more than the two-time championship in Hong Kong: it was a sign of reaction and presence less than four months before Paris 2024, with six games won without the need for additional minutes.

Michael Hooper, with the number 77 in his first interventions. “Since 7 was already busy, I used two,” he said. 
Credits: AFP
Michael Hooper, with the number 77 in his first interventions. “Since 7 was already busy, I used two,” he said. Credits: AFP

Before the hard-fought decisive victory against France, the New Zealand victim in the semifinals was Australia, with a score of 26 to 7. There is only one player on the Wallabie squad who lacks a profile photo on the competition’s official website. Predictable: Michael Hooper, 69-time captain in 125 international matches for the 15-year-old rugby team, made his coveted debut in the sport on Friday in Hong Kong, aged 32. He played four of the six games, one of them from the start - in the fall to Ireland that led to fourth place - and did not score tries.

After the initial win against Fiji, the forward admitted: “My nerves started to go up and up. Going into the last few minutes, there was a lot of nervousness.” In addition, he pointed to open field defense as one of the neuralgic differences: “it’s something that I’m really learning and seeing that it’s a different art in Seven.” After the tournament ended, he referred to a “good weekend” and explained that “there are some areas of the game where I think I can improve a lot, how I relate to other players and when I can make an impact”.

Antoine Dupont in Los Angeles, with his first gold medal on the circuit. 
Credits: AFP
Antoine Dupont in Los Angeles, with his first gold medal on the circuit. Credits: AFP

The standard-bearer of the migration of emblems to rugby sevens in the Olympic year is called Antoine Dupont. An engagement with Toulouse against Racing 92 excluded him from Hong Kong. His first two scales had been enough for his colleagues to highlight his management of situations of “high tension” and his “wisdom”. Since joining the team, in which he scored six tries in 11 games, France has not fallen off the podium: was third in Vancouver, champion in Los Angeles breaking a 19-year curse without titles on the circuit and finalist at the Hong Kong Stadium.

The twists of the two world stars merited an analysis by the executive director of World Rugby, Alam Gilpin, in a dialogue with the Rugby World portal: “I think it’s important because it has provided both countries and the series with a profile that we must continue to build”. The preponderance of the Olympic competition was a topic that he didn’t ignore either: “We put a lot of effort and a lot of investment into the series to get to Paris”, he cites what he ponders as “a great platform to shed light” on the specialty.

The darkest counterface of the weekend came from Argentina, which landed as the leader with 20 points ahead of Ireland and retired with eight (94 to 86), after a ninth place abruptly overshadowed by the alert that flies over the injury of their supreme try card.

Marcos Moneta, Player of the Year in 2021, suffered a fractured fibula in his right leg in the first action of his debut against the United States and on his imminent return to the country, studies will be carried out that will more accurately determine the degree of injury, treatment and downtime. He will have at least six weeks of absence and, if there is a ligament injury, he could miss the finals in Madrid (31 May to 2 June) and the Olympic Games (24 to 30 July).

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