The thrilling HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 comes to an end at Twickenham on Sunday, with big victories for Argentina, Australia and Canada.
Although it was not enough to win the series, a title which New Zealand took 21 points above Argentina, the Pumas Sevens capped off their best season by winning the third tournament of 2023.
Earlier, Canada had secured their core team status for the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Series after defeating Kenya in the play-off final. In addition, Australia confirmed its qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games by finishing fifth in the standings.
As the dust settles on a compelling campaign and thoughts turn to the new 2024 series, we recap seven things we learned from the HSBC London Sevens.
Viewers get a glimpse of what’s to come in 2024
Fans watching the action in London this weekend, either at home or inside Twickenham as part of huge carnival crowds, got a glimpse of what the new 2024 series will look like.
A reduction in the number of teams competing from 16 to 12 means that the intensity will be much higher.
Gold medalists Argentina had to work incredibly hard to win the tournament; They lost to Ireland in the group stage and came close to losing to Samoa in the semi-finals.
The Pumas Sevens overcame those challenges and beat Fiji for the second time in two days in the final, taking advantage of the numbers given by Jose Batirega’s red card to win 35–14.
It was an exciting way to bring the curtains down on the 2023 series and hint at an exciting 2024 season to come, once the players have definitely had a well-deserved rest.
Moneta and Isgro have fun at Twickenham
Argentina had never before won more than one gold medal in a season, so a third win at the HSBC London Sevens in 2023 confirms this as the team’s most successful campaign yet.
Marcos Moneta and Rodrigo Isgro will celebrate that success by holidaying together in the coming weeks and have certainly earned their break, leading the Los Pumas Sevens to glory at Twickenham.
It was not just the four tries scored in London or the two tries each that contributed to Fiji’s defeat in the final that tore them apart at the weekend.
Moneta, who has now amassed 100 assists in just 20 tournaments, and Isgro enjoy an almost telepathic understanding that makes it impossible to defend against them all but when they are in full attack.
“We are very close friends,” said Isgro, who was selected as the HSBC player in the final. “We share the same room and spend a lot of time together in and out of the team.”
He hopes that this friendship will take Argentina to new heights in 2024.
Back to Canada “Where We Belong”
Canada captain Phil Berna insisted ahead of the weekend that his team’s fourth-place finish in Toulouse was “part of the peak of performance” as they prepared to compete in the play-offs in London.
However, after their 24-19 opening defeat to Kenya on Saturday, they will be fearing whether they can repeat what they did in France.
However, wins over Uruguay, who were 15 points better than them in the 2023 series table, and Tonga were enough to book their place in the deciding play-off.
After an early try from Nelson Ou, Canada responded through Josiah Mora and Alex Russell to confirm their definitive position by a narrow margin, winning 12–7 with Shuja down.
Byrne said after the win, “It feels great, it feels like where we should have been.”
Australia a Paris
Australia captain Nick Malouf was honest when he described his team’s Sunday at Twickenham as “one of the greatest roller coasters ever”.
Despite having a nine-point cushion head into the HSBC London Sevens in the race for the fourth and final ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics offered by the series, there came a moment on the second day when it seemed their fate was out of their hands.
Had Samoa been able to beat Argentina and book their place in the final, it would have been them, not Australia, who would have celebrated qualification.
But Los Pumas Sevens rallied to win their semi-final and this allowed Australia to secure their presence in Paris with a shock 34–5 defeat of Great Britain in the playoff for seventh place.
In the end, Malouf and his teammates secured their place in the Olympics by finishing one point behind Samoa in the table.
wa apelu maliko tireless try-man
Samoa’s first bronze medal in nearly 10 years, and one step away from Olympic qualification, was inspired once again by the efforts of Wa Apelo Maliko.
Co-captain Apelo Maliko scored an incredible 11 tries in two days of action at Twickenham, including four in the group stage win against Spain.
He also scored the try that gave his team the lead between minutes 3 and 12 of the semi-final against Argentina.
Samoa and Apelo Maliko did not get the try that would have secured the win, but rallied in the last play of the match to secure a thrilling bronze victory against New Zealand.
His exploits in London ensured that Apelo Maliko surpassed Moneta to finish the 2023 series as the men’s top try scorer with 50. He also finished the campaign top of the men’s DHL Impact Player table and underlined his status as one of the stars of the game.