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Stars to watch in Tokyo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Television broadcaster Nigel Starmer-Smith picks five players to watch out for at the sixth round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Tokyo.


Amidst all the talent of the All Blacks 7s, it must be Tim Mikkelson who is the most important to Gordon Tietjens. A big man, he has exceptional versatility as a prop, a brilliant midfield centre or wing in Sevens. First selected by Tietjens in George seven years ago, he's since played 45 tournaments, mostly as a forward, and scored 130 tries. He has a large stride, deceptive pace and his strength makes him difficult to get hold of in the tackle. Still only 27 years old, you can guarantee he'll be in the mix for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.


There are some exceptionally promising talent among Ben Ryan's Fiji squad with Samisoni Viriviri, Benito Masilevu or Semi Kunatani shining examples, but Emosi Mulevovo, with eight tournaments to his name, is already destined to be an outstanding star. His first appearance was last year in Hong Kong, where the Fijians won. He was dropped soon after by Alifereti Dere but Ryan recalled him, having recognised a quality scrum-half in 15s.


Only Ben Gollings has played more 7s tournaments than James Rodwell, who has grown further in stature this season. Seldom does he miss the ball at England's line-out and he also has deceptive power and pace and is strong in the tackle. First selected by Ben Ryan at Murrayfield in 2008, he has played each year since, scoring 65 tries in 48 tournaments.


This is not a favour to my friendly Australian co-commentator, Greg Clark and father of Cameron! In fact his 20-year-old son is fast becoming a top player among not only the Australian squad but the series as a whole. Based as a young man in the Northern Suburbs club of Sydney, he was spotted by coach Michael O'Connor two years ago as a long and lean speedster with raw potential. Injury kept him on the sidelines earlier this season but he's recovered to play a starring role, not just with his tries but also his vital goal-kicking.

FRANKIE HORNE - South Africa

There may be more glamorous greyhounds in the South African squad — indeed no shortage of spectacular sprinters — but for years now Horne has provided them with the ball, and with remarkable regularity. First selected in Dubai in 2007, big Frankie has played every single World Series tournament since that day — only cruelly missing out on the World Cup in Moscow in June. Otherwise he has proved unstoppable: no injury, never dropped, never missed a tournament in 55 events — remarkable! A rugged forward, strong, very physical, 16 and a half stone but no slouch! Time and again he wins the ball, has handling skills and also averages almost a try every tournament.

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