Seven of the best players in Rugby World Cup Sevens history

From Waisale Serevi to Portia Woodman, we take a look at seven of the greatest players to grace the RWC Sevens tournament.

Ever since the first Rugby World Cup Sevens was played at Murrayfield in April, 1993, a host of the world’s best players have competed for the Melrose Cup.

And, with the countdown on for RWC Sevens 2022, we take a look at seven of the best male and female players to ever grace the tournament.

Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)

Michaela Blyde became the first player to be named World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in successive seasons when she received the award in both 2017 and 2018.

The second award came after a dominant performance at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco, during which she scored nine tries in four appearances — including two hat-tricks.

Blade crossed the whitewash three times against Ireland in the quarter-finals, and then followed that up with the opening try of the semi-final win over the USA and another triple against France in the final.

Those tries confirmed a second successive RWC Sevens title for the Black Ferns Sevens, and Blyde will hope to contribute to New Zealand’s quest for a third in Cape Town next year.

Santiago Gomez Cora (Argentina)

The first player to notch a double century of HSBC World Rugby Seven Series tries, Santiago Gomez Cora also left his mark on Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Cora featured at RWC Sevens 2005 in Hong Kong, where he scored three tries in the pool stage before Argentina were eliminated by Fiji in the quarter-finals.

In the United Arab Emirates four years later, Cora and Argentina made it to the final where they came up against Wales, who they had beaten 14-0 in Pool F.

The winger had scored in that match, however, his try-scoring touch eluded him in the showpiece match and Wales were able to secure a narrow 19-12 triumph.

Cora played his final World Series match in 2010, finishing with 230 World Series tries, before transitioning into coaching, and coached the Argentine men’s team at RWC Sevens 2018. 

Ghislaine Landry (Canada)

No female player has scored more points on the World Series than Canadian Ghislaine Landry, who has amassed 1,356 in 208 matches.

Landry played a pivotal role as Canada’s women finished as runners-up to New Zealand at RWC Sevens 2013 in Moscow.

The playmaker scored 37 points at the Luzhniki Stadium — second only to Portia Woodman’s 60 — running in seven tries, including a brace against hosts Russia and Spain.

Five years later, in San Francisco, Landry captained her country and added 31 points to her RWC Sevens tally as Canada finished seventh.

Eric Rush (New Zealand)

One of the original stars of sevens, Eric Rush played nine tests for the All Blacks, including two at Rugby World Cup 1995, but it was in the shorter form of the game that he truly excelled.

Rush represented New Zealand at three RWC Sevens, although a broken leg kept him out of the knockout stages as his countrymen won the title in 2001, and played on the World Series until he was 39.

A powerful and elusive runner, Rush was also a committed leader who captained New Zealand to Commonwealth Games gold in both 1998 and 2002. 

“He is synonymous with sevens,” former teammate Karl Tenana wrote last year, “and is probably the best captain I’ve ever seen. He had this ability to get players to play above the level they even knew they could perform themselves, as well as obviously being a class player himself.

Waisale Serevi (Fiji)

Known around the world as the ‘King of Sevens’, Waisale Serevi is arguably the most recognisable proponent of the shorter format.

Capable of rare feats on the rugby pitch, Serevi was the driving force behind the Fiji team for much of the 1990s and 2000s, amassing 1,310 points on the World Series and a record 297 points at RWC Sevens tournaments.

Serevi twice tasted RWC Sevens success, but it was in 1997 that he had the biggest impact, scoring 117 points as Fiji surged to the title, beating South Africa 24-21 in the final in Hong Kong.

A triple Commonwealth Games medallist, the World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee became player-coach of Fiji in 2005 and led the team to its first World Series in his first season.

Marika Vunibaka (Fiji)

The original flying Fijian, Marika Vunibaka burst onto the scene during his country’s run to the RWC Sevens 1997 title in Hong Kong.

Vunibaka scored 12 tries at Hong Kong Stadium, including four in the semi-final victory against Samoa, as Fiji lifted the Melrose Cup for the first time. 

Four years later, the winger notched five tries as his side finished third in Argentina, and contributed a further six during RWC Sevens 2005, including a hat-trick against Japan, as Fiji regained their title back in Hong Kong.

No player has scored more RWC Sevens tries than the 23 Vunibaka managed across his three tournament appearances.

Portia Woodman (New Zealand)

Injuries and the ongoing pandemic have ensured Portia Woodman has not played on the World Series since October, 2018, but it cannot be forgotten how much of a force the New Zealand winger had been prior to that.

At her first RWC Sevens, in Russia in 2013, Woodman scored 12 tries in six matches as the Black Fern Sevens claimed their first title. Five years later, she crossed the whitewash six times, including once in the 29-0 final defeat of France, as New Zealand won gold again.

Between 2012-18, meanwhile, Woodman scored 195 World Series tries in just 157 matches. No female player has scored more, and only two players — Ghislaine Landry and Tyla Nathan-Wong — have amassed more points.

In 2018, the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2015 also helped New Zealand to Commonwealth Games gold in Australia, while two years previously she scored 10 tries, including two hat-tricks, en route to a silver medal at Rio 2016.

 

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