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South Africa will enter Dubai as reigning series and tournament champions as they look to kick start their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 campaign.
Neil Powell has announced his most experienced side ever as they get set to contest Pool A against Canada, Kenya and Uganda.
"We're fully ready for the challenge. We've picked an experienced side but we know we have to start from square one and play hard in Dubai," said Powell.
Runners-up at Dubai in 2016, Fiji, will field a team missing the likes of Osea Kolinisau and Samisoni Viriviri, with the captain's armband going to the formidable Jerry Tuwai.
Series runners-up England have also named a full strength side, with Tom Mitchell as captain and all-time record try scorer on the world series, Dan Norton, also picked.
Ahead of the competition World Rugby picked seven players set to dazzle in the Dubai desert.
Perry Baker – USA
We’ve got to start with the recently named World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year. Top try scorer in 2017 with 57, Baker is THE player to watch. He is one of the fastest on the series, deceptively strong for his size (he can rep 120kg on the bench press) and a threat from anywhere on the pitch.
Maurice Longbottom – Australia
Nobody knows much about Longbottom. A former South Sydney rugby league junior, he has never been on the series before. However at the Oktoberfest Sevens in Munich back in October, and at the Silicon Valley Sevens in San Francisco, he showed some serious pace and footwork. Head coach Andy Friend is already looking forward to trying him out on the series and at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Watch the video below to see what’s in store.
Eroni Sau – Fiji
Head coach Gareth Baber will be missing a number of star names such as Osea Kolinisau and Kitione Taliga in Dubai, but he will have Fijian Drua 15s star Eroni Sau. Sau was dropped out of the squad in 2013, began playing with the Fiji Police Force in 2014 and has built a career in 15s, recently helping the Drua reach the semi-finals of National Rugby Championship in Australia. Can he adapt to the pace of sevens? Yet to be seen, but an exciting prospect for Dubai nonetheless.
Alex Lagarde – France
Glimpses of brilliance last year. He played four tournaments and scored 12 tries. Slight in frame and at just 21 years old, Lagarde could be one of the stars of an ever-changing French line-up for Dubai, offering nifty footwork and plenty of ambition.
Rosko Specman – South Africa
One of the nominees for World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Specman became a key man in 2017 when the likes of Seabelo Senatla switched over to 15s duty. Previously an impact player off the bench, Specman became a lethal playmaker, scoring wonder tries at tournaments like Cape Town and Vancouver. “Speckmagic” as he is known on social media, might be able to sprinkle a little bit of that in Dubai as South Africa aim to retain their tournament title.
Justin Douglas – Canada
The third highest try scorer in 2017 with 40, Douglas was a star player in 2017 for Canada, helping them to their first ever tournament win at the HSBC Singapore Sevens. At 23 years old, the British Columbian dairy farmer is strong-as-an-ox and is as physical as they come on the series.
Matias Osadczuk – Argentina
The World Rugby Rookie of the Year for 2017, Osadczuk was a gem of a find for head coach Santiago Gomez Cora. He scored 26 tries and was a menace to defend against. As Argentina build towards Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, Osadczuk is set to be a core part of the side.....PACNEWS
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