A Good Draw, Says Sevens’ Middleton

ZIMBABWE Sevens rugby coach Liam Middleton believes his side received a favourable World Cup draw and can make an impression at the March tournament.


The Cheetahs were this week drawn in Pool E with Argentina, Wales and Uruguay.

Zimbabwe, one of four African teams in the highly anticipated showpiece, are rated third seeds in their group after IRB core nations Argentina and Wales.

While subscribing to the general view that every single one of the 24 teams in Dubai will have something up their sleeves, Middleton showed self-belief, saying the Argentines and the Welsh can be upset.

“There are no easy pools at a world cup and indeed this is the same with IRB World Series tournament,” Middleton told IndependentSport from his UK base. “However I feel this is a good pool. Argentina are a team we have played regularly and a team I feel we can approach with some confidence. Wales are equally a team we often draw, having played them in both Dubai and George. In the latter we lost by two points. Having gone over the Wales game in George with the players during the recent training camp, I feel this is a team we will be confident of playing.

“Uruguay are an unknown quantity and we will be looking at them in the San Diego Sevens next month. You couldn’t say this is an easy pool, but it’s a pool with opportunities for the most ambitious and accurate performing team and that’s what we will be training towards.”

Middleton said a three-day intensive training camp in Beatrice last weekend was fruitful.

“The training camp in Beatrice this weekend was very useful from a coaching perspective. It was vital in our World Cup preparations.

All of our training camps are followed by a major tournament, so without that important factor to consider, I was able to push the players hard and work on the physical aspects of our game.

“The players’ attitude in training was exceptional; despite the heat and physical nature of the sessions, the players showed strong determination to improve aspects of our game. From a coach’s perspective it went according to plan.”

Competition for places in the final squad will be tough, with or without the availability of eminent flyhalf Kennedy Tsimba, whose chances of inclusion appear to be lessened by his absence from the training camp.

“The players know that there will be 16 players in World Cup Camp Two, and only 12 will travel to the World Cup,” Middleton said. “With the pool draw now complete, I can start to make specific preparations for the games and make my selections accordingly.

Every one of the 16 players has an equal chance, and there may be some surprise selections and omissions. There are no second chances at a World Cup and I’m going to pick the fittest, fastest, toughest and most skilled players. I’m looking at combinations that will give us the best chance of victory.”

Captain Jacques Leitao also said the draw was fair.

“It’s a good draw, but I’m saying it’s going to be easy,” said the hooker. “We came close against Wales in George and they can be beaten. Argentina competes consistently well with the top teams in the world, so that will be a test of character for us.

Uruguay are the dark horse, but they have played Sevens before and they too won’t be easy.”

BY ENOCK MUCHINJO