It's the awards silly season, the sports media are anointing many the greatest ever, best of the year, best moment, you name it and there is an award for it. The UR7s Awards themselves are announced between Christmas and New Year including Player of the Year, Womens Player of the Year at international level but in keeping with 'everything 7s' UR7s are looking to acknowledge everyone and everything that makes our sport so brilliantly. Today though, it's the turn of the men who are the very best in the world, we at UR7s want to take the opportunity to take a closer look at the HSBC World Sevens Series in 2012 and rather than just awarding the stand-out man and woman we wanted to compile a list of the 'Top Twenty International Sevens Stars of 2012' that are plying their trade at the highest level of 7s.
It's the awards silly season, the sports media are anointing many the greatest ever, best of the year, best moment, you name it and there is an award for it. The UR7s Awards themselves are announced between Christmas and New Year including Player of the Year, Womens Player of the Year at international level but in keeping with 'everything 7s' UR7s are looking to acknowledge everyone and everything that makes our sport so brilliantly.
Today though, it's the turn of the men who are the very best in the world, we at UR7s want to take the opportunity to take a closer look at the HSBC World Sevens Series in 2012 and rather than just awarding the stand-out man and woman we wanted to compile a list of the 'Top Twenty International Sevens Stars of 2012' that are plying their trade at the highest level of 7s.
It's not all about the men in 2012. The Womens World Sevens Series kicked off in Dubai last month and with it, we will be naming the 'Top 5 International Sevens Stars 2012' for the women and are absolutely certain that this list will only grow as the series continues in Houston, China and Amsterdam in 2013.
The UR7s awards panel includes a number of people that have seen every game of HSBC World Sevens Series rugby in 2012, whilst have also taken in European Grand Prix Series, HSBC Asian Sevens Series plus a huge number of domestic rugby 7s that has featured a large number of international stars. The panel includes Tom Burwell (UR7s CEO), Jon Bolter (Lead Rugby 7s Columnist, UR7s), Nick Jordan (International 7s writer), Andre Ryder (International 7s writer), Alison Donnelly (Scrumqueens.com), Mike Friday (Kenya 7s Coach) & Al Caravelli (Phillipines Coach/Former USA Coach)
Our panel certainly did not agree with one another on who the Top 20 players in the world have been in 2012 but compromises have been found. The chief protagonist for the nominated player gives his views on what makes his man so good and so deserving of making the UR7s Top Twenty International Stars of 2012.
No. 20 - James Fleming (Scotlland) - 16 Tournaments Caps - "It's traditionally been Turnbull that leads the charge for the Scots with his 118 World Series scores but now it's Fleming the opposition coaches fear the most with 38 scores in the past 12 tournaments, that's a strike record that is tough to match especially in a team that goes backwards a lot" - Bolter
No. 19 - Nathan Hirayama (Canada) - 23 Tournament Caps - "Since I first saw this man play as a kid in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2006 you could tell his touch is world class. He pulls the strings for Canada, when he is on song he finds holes in the oppo defense for players like Hassler & Duke to strike through" - Burwell
No. 18 - Kurt Baker (New Zealand) - 13 Tournament Caps - "Let's be honest, he would be a lot higher if he hadn't only played 2 tournaments this year but with 14 scores in those tournaments you cannot ignore him and he has to have a spot in this list. It's not only his scoring touch, it's how he scores them, great in support lines, real quality in the contact and doesn't mind a scrap. My kind of player" - Burwell
No. 17 - Frankie Horne (South Africa) - 44 Tournament Caps - "The South African Oak who is resilient and physical in all that he does. His work ethic is unquestionable and allows the rest of the South African team to play" - Friday
No. 16 - Matt Hawkins (USA) - 31 Tournament Caps - "The Polar Bear is another big man plying his trade in a quick mans sport not looking remotely on the wrong park. Good as a link man, whilst stays on his feet brilliantly to find the offload well" - Bolter
No. 15 - Pedro Martin (Spain) - 13 Tournament Caps - "Fast, powerful, scrappy and inventive. He has all the intangibles to succeed at World Series level and since joining the series full-time and with it Spain 7s going full-time it has paid off. 16 scores so far in 12/13 sees him topping the table. His score in PE when kicked through and dove on ball to regather sums him up as a player" - Ryder
No. 14 - Pedro Leal (Portugal) - 36 Tournament Caps - "If Pedro Martin is the scrappy man from the Med then Leal brings the panache and beauty of Portuguese football to the rugby 7s field. His touch and feet create space in a way that very few in the series can do. It's credit that his rivals always mention his name when referring to Portugal" - Burwell
No. 13 - Collins Injera (Kenya) - 38 Tournament Caps - "The forgotten winger has burst back onto the scene fitter stronger and quicker and the glint of competitiveness is back in his eye. An immensely strong defender which is paramount to being an all-round winger in 7’s. Watch out all this season!!!" - Friday
No. 12 - Rhys Shellard (Wales) - 33 Tournament Caps - "The Welsh captain is awesome, his partnership with Richie Pugh has been fundamental in the welsh sides frustration of Fiji in the latter parts of 2012. He's physical, destructive and the archetypal modern day 7s loose-forward. He'd be in most teams on the series if not all of them" - Ryder
No. 11 - Levani Botia (Fiji) - 9 Tournament Caps - Just a human dynamo who is brimming with aggression and throws himself everywhere with no regard for his body at tackle time or in contact collisions. He undertakes all the hard work to allow his fellow teammates to express themselves on the paddock. - Friday
Some interesting stats about players ranking 20-11
- Average Tournament Caps - 25.6 caps or the equivalent of almost 3 years on the circuit.
- Average Points Scored - 315.5 points
- Number of Forwards - 4
- Number of Backs - 6
- Northern Hemisphere - 6
- Southern Hemisphere - 4
So who's going to be in the Top 10/Top 5?
Will Number One go to Tomasi Cama and match the award of IRB Player of the Year or will flyers Norton or Turner pip him to the post. Afrika, Du Preez and Brown have yet to be named from the Boks with Forbes, Raikabula, Halai and Mikkelson also still out there for the Blacks. Cracknell and Bouhroua will want to be in the mix.
Australian and Fijian captains Jenkins and Cakua will surely feature and what about the irrepressible Paul Perez? The bottom line is that there are so many great players on the HSBC World Sevens Series that some are going to have to miss out, but who?
The Top 10 will be published next week alongside the UR7s Awards for 2012. Remember we need your votes and nominations for some of the awards so please take a read and get in touch with us. Remember every vote or nomination will mean your name goes into the hat for a signed RWC7s 2009 England Shirt.
Do you agree/disagree? If your favorite player missing completely or in the wrong spot. Then let us know either on Twitter or on our Facebook Page. Most compelling argument might well win a prize!