Saints will face some of the stars of the sevens game, including Carlin Isles (centre) ©Getty Images
Rugby News All you need to know about World Club 7s
This weekend the Saints will make history as one of 12 sides to compete the first ever World Club 7s at Twickenham. Having been drawn into Pool B along with Buenos Aires, San Francisco and Vodacom Blue Bulls, we take a look at the opposition clubs and a few men to watch on day one.
Nicknamed Las Aguilas (the Eagles), the Buenos Aires club can be traced directly back to the formation of the River Plate Rugby Union in 1899, taking on its current name to coincide with the sport turning professional after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Their 34 Argentine titles dwarf the nearest tally of nine by Tacuman and Buenos Aires remains by far the most renowned club in South America having also faced Test sides from England, South Africa, France and Wales in the 1990s.
As far as sevens rugby goes in Argentina, there is no one more apt to be leading their representation at Twickenham than Santiago Gomez Cora. The former Pumas full back, who recently turned 35, is a legend of the shortened version of the game and is the leading try scorer in the history of the IRB World Sevens Series having crossed a staggering 230 times.
Coach Gomez Cora may have sounded out the Saints as their toughest challenge this Saturday afternoon, but the feeling may well be mutual from the Gardens after a quick look over the Buenos Aires squad.
Argentina were Plate semi-finalists at the recent Rugby World Cup 7s and one of their standout performers of that effort, Matias Moroni brings his experience of 11 World Series events to the tournament.
Moroni is joined in the squad by a number of Pumas junior internationals and the likes of Javier Ortega Desio and Tomas de la Vega, both of whom have earned multiple caps at senior Test level.
Over the past couple of seasons, one man has ensured that San Francisco and the Saints have enjoyed close ties off the field. Double player of the season and Premiership Dream Teamer of 2012 Samu Manoa was born and raised just half an hour’s drive from the club in Concord and earned his first US Eagles cap with Golden Gate.
The club were double US Super League champions during Manoa’s stint and also home to fellow USA internationals Shawn Pittman and Mike MacDonald. Wallaby World Cup winning prop Tony Daly also enjoyed time in San Fran during the late 1990s.
Like Buenos Aires, San Francisco have gone with a coach with international playing experience in the sevens game, Jone Naqica having skippered the Eagles and ranking among their top try scorers on the IRB World Sevens circuit.
The wing also has experience in the XV man game having played eight Tests for the United States before his retirement in 2010. Naqica has since been working to develop young talent at San Francisco.
Despite playing down his side’s status heading into the World Club 7s, Naqica could well have the attraction of the weekend among his squad, Carlin Isles. ‘The fastest man in rugby’ only turned to the sport 2012 but with a 100m personal best that would have qualified for the London 2012 Olympic semi-final he has already earned a fierce reputation in the game.
The wing could well recognise his Olympic dream when rugby sevens joins the fold at Rio 2016 and is joined by US Eagles stars Mike Te’o and Jack Halalilo as well as American sevens legend Mose Timoteo, who has been prominent in US sevens for some 14 years.
VODACOM BLUE BULLS
The Bulls are one of the most revered names in southern hemisphere rugby and for good reason. With some 23 Currie Cups to their name the club’s former playing list reads like a who’s who of Springbok rugby, Joost van der Westhuizen, Bryan Habana and Francois Pienaar just three of a raft of names to represent Blue Bulls (formerly Transvaal) before going on to win the Rugby World Cup.
Parent club the Bulls meanwhile named squads littered with Blue Bulls graduates for each of their three Super Rugby title winning finals including arguably the greatest second row partnership of all time, Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.
Xander Janse van Rensburg is one of the men who make the Bulls Super Rugby franchise tick behind the scenes as high performance manager.
Keen rugby fans may recognise the name as van Rensburg was quoted over the summer regarding transfer of Springbok star Zane Kirchner to Leinster and Jacques Potgieter’s link to Saracens before he headed off to Australia instead.
The Saints’ final game on Saturday afternoon won’t see any drop in quality of opposition, Vodacom Blue Bulls another opposition able to call upon international Sevens talent in the tournament’s first edition.
Andre Warner and Jason Kriel have both worn the Springbok jersey on the World Sevens stage while the remainder of the squad have top level experience in either the Currie Cup or on the South African Varsity scene.
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