Now that the 2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is upon us, it’s time to talk about the DHL Impact Player Award. And who better to talk with than two former England 7 stars and DHL’s Rugby ambassadors: Danielle Waterman and Rob Vickerman.
The 2017-18 series was a fantastic one, with DHL awarding 16 winners from nine different nations. After five women’s and 10 men’s tournaments, Canada’s Justin Douglas and New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde were crowned DHL Impact Player Award winners at the Series Awards in Paris.
“Consistency was the most impressive part – they both seldom come off the pitch!”Rob Vickerman, Former England 7s captain and DHL ambassador
“Consistency was the most impressive part,” said Vickerman. “They both seldom come off the pitch! Their fitness and durability are remarkable, and both have an ability to make a huge carry, or support an offload and run 60 meters – and do it again a few more times!”
Now what do Vickerman and Waterman have to say about the DHL Impact Player Award (IPA) for the upcoming series?
Waterman: “I’ve got my eye on Camille Grassineau from France. She’s absolutely brutal! The French star is one of the top tacklers on the series, with tremendous power and excellent technique. She made the most tackles on the women’s series – 115 in 2018! And she won the Langford 7s Impact Player Award last season, with 34 tackles as France finished fourth. And let’s not forget that Grassineau finished third in the IPA standings overall, just nine points behind winner, Michaela Blyde.”
“Last year, Fiji’s Eroni Sau was nicknamed the sledgehammer for a reason.”Rob Vickerman
Vickerman: “Last year, Fiji’s Eroni Sau was nicknamed the sledgehammer for a reason. He was ending people, it was brutal. Sau won the IPA award in Hong Kong where his side also took Gold, and he made 21 tackles for a total score of 53. He made 138 tackles in the season – massively impressive in his first year on the World Rugby Sevens Series.”
Waterman: “Kelly Brazier of New Zealand is my pick for most carries. She doesn’t grab a lot of headlines, but she’s a real workhorse for the Black Ferns, the current reigning champions. Her tough carrying creates space for the likes of Michaela Blyde. She has a brilliant left foot – and she’s definitely made me look silly over time. Brazier famously scored the winning try for New Zealand in the 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold Medal match, so she’s got the speed to finish off from 80 meters out!”
“She has a brilliant left foot – and she’s definitely made me look silly over time.”Danielle Waterman, Former England 7s vice captain and DHL ambassador
Vickerman: “Kenya’s Nelson Oyoo is a huge physical threat with an electric turn of pace. He’s a machine and he’s got it all – speed, power, and footwork. This number nine flies around the outside and will be one to watch as Kenya look for more consistency this series.”
Waterman: “Baizat Khamidova from Russia is a big tall rangy runner with a huge amount of strength in her upper body. And just by winning those collisions, she often has her hands free to be able to get the ball way. Khamidova won the IPA in Sydney with 8 offloads and a total score of 52. She makes so many dominant carries and is able to offload to keep the attack going. Russia will be looking for more medals this season as they try to make their semifinal opportunities count.”
Vickerman: “One of my favorite offloaders from the whole of last year – every time he got the ball, he did something pretty insane. Fiji’s Amenoni Nasilasila. He is one of the best offloaders on the series, he wins the collisions and gets his huge arms free to offload to supporting teammates. A real weapon in attack. Nasilasila made the second most offloads in 2018 – 35. He’s definitely someone we want to see more of on the sevens circuit.”
Waterman: “I want to take the men on this one, too, because I want to talk about USA’s Perry Baker and his incredible turning on a fivepence in Vegas last year. It was one of the tries of the season, taking on six defenders from his own try line! Beating people with pace, with footwork, with agility. And he did it as his team won on home soil! An absolute gas to go on the outside. And Baker added more to his game over the past season, particularly in defense, but he can score a try out of nothing and he’s one of the quickest players on the planet with lethal footwork. On top of it all, Baker was just named the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year…again! He’s the only player to have won it twice.”
Waterman: “On the women’s side, I think Russia’s Alena Mikhaltsova is going to light it up. She won two IPA awards last year, in Kitakyushu and Dubai. Incredible with the ball in hand, a powerhouse with a lot of speed. She’s consistent, a terrific defender – a nightmare for attackers with crafty footwork and sheer pace. Mikhaltsova finished fifth in the overall table last season on 213, but she’ll be eager to top the table in 2019!”
Highest IPA score
Vickerman: “Before we go, one more piece of IPA trivia: Australia’s Charlotte Caslick won the Paris Impact Player Award with the highest ever IPA score in men’s and women’s history – 72. Do you think that can be toppled this season?”
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