The European sevens season klcks off this weekend with the Conference – the third tier of European sevens.
Possibly the most unpredictable annual international sevens tournament takes place in Zagreb this weekend.
The European Conference is the third level of European Sevens. 9 of the 12 team who played in last year’s event return. Norway and Austria have moved on to greater things after winning promotion last time, replaced by Malta and Moldova who were relegated. And Bosnia – who finished 12th last year – have been replaced by Turkey.
Needless to say the newly relegated teams – Malta and Moldova – start as the top seeds and favourites to bounce back to the 2019 European Trophy. For Moldova in particular to slip this far down the ladder will be disappointing for a team that has played at the top level of European sevens in the past.
But nothing should be taken for granted. Denmark – relegated in 2017 – will be in strong contention. They looked well on their way to promotion, until Norway were surprisingly beaten in a pool game, and so met – and defeated – them in the semi-finals.
Croatia – who upset the Norwegians last year – are always a team capable of surprises while Georgian rugby is on a high at the moment, which must encourage good performances from their women’s team.
Those would seem to be the teams to beat, but even further down there teams capable of pulling off good results. Andorra is another team with a tradition that belies its seventh place in 2017, while Luxembourg will include players with experience in the top Belgian leagues. Turkey may also be worth watching - they reached the semi-finals when they last appeared in 2016, and the quarter-finals in 2015.
Pool A: Malta, Bulgaria, Andorra, Turkey
Pool B: Moldova, Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania
Pool C: Georgia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Slovenia
The tournament will be live steamed from Zagreb from 10am (BST).