Rugby: 9 stars to look out for at Singapore Sevens tournament

(From left)  Sonny Bill Williams, Cameron Clarke, Seabelo Senatla and Dan Norton will be in Singapore for the Singapore leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
(From left) Sonny Bill Williams, Cameron Clarke, Seabelo Senatla and Dan Norton will be in Singapore for the Singapore leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.PHOTOS: AFP

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Sevens makes its much-anticipated return to the National Stadium after 10 years with 16 of the planet's top rugby sevens teams set to do battle on this weekend (April 16 and 17).

The shortened format of sevens promises end-to-end action and high-scoring matches crammed inside bite-sized seven-minute halves.

The Straits Times picks out nine players expected to play a starring role for their countries.

1. Cameron Clark, 23, Australia

Position: Centre


Cameron Clarke of Australia (top) scores a try as he is tackled by Tiago Fernandes of Portugal (bottom) in their Pool A match in the Sydney Sevens rugby Union tournament. PHOTO: AFP 

The son of renowned rugby commentator Greg, Clark scored 32 tries last season, finishing tied-fourth on the try scoring list. The Singapore Sevens could the perfect platform for Clark to stake his claim for a place in the Olympics squad, amid competition from Wallabies Henry Speight and Nick Cummins.

2. Sonny Bill Williams, 30, New Zealand

Position: Centre/Winger


New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams taking a selfie with fans during the cup final against South Africa on the second day of the Wellington Sevens rugby Union tournament. PHOTO: AFP

One of the game's biggest stars, Williams has won two World Cups with the All Blacks in the 15-a-side union version and is hoping a strong run in the sevens team will cement his spot in the side for the Rio Olympics where he hopes to add another gold medal to his collection. Famed for his playmaking ability to both shrug off tackles and dish out pin-point passes, Williams has also shed his bad-boy image to become one of rugby's most popular players. In a spontaneous act of generosity, he gave away his Rugby World Cup winner's medal to a young fan who had run onto the Twickenham pitch after last year's final.

3. Osea Kolinisau, 30, Fiji

Position: Wing


Fiji's Osea Kolinisau (centre) being tackled during the final of the Men's 2016 USA Sevens Rugby Tournament in Las Vegas on March 6, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Kolinisau captained the Fiji sevens team to four leg wins last season en route to their first Sevens World Series championship since 2006. Fresh off scoring his 100th try of the World Sevens Series during last week's Hong Kong leg, he will be a key part of the Fiji team as they target back-to-back wins in Singapore.

4. Perry Baker, 29, USA

Position: Winger


Perry Baker of the United States carries the ball against Canada during the USA Sevens Rugby tournament. PHOTO: AFP 

One half of the "Chuckle Brothers" along with the injured Carlin Isles, the speed merchant who used to play American football, is second in tries scored this season (36). He has, however, proven to be more than just a pacey winger with an improved defensive game and physique.

5. Seabelo Senatla, 23, South Africa

Position: Winger


Seabelo Senatla of South Africa runs in a try during the match between South Africa and Scotland at the HSBC Sydney Sevens. PHOTO: AFP

Having topped the try-scoring charts last season with 47 (eight more than the next best), the fleet-footed winger is back to his old tricks and already has 43 tries this season. Formerly part of Super Rugby side the Stormers, he is one of three South Africans to make the Rugby Sevens dream team last year.  

6. Dan Norton, 28, England

Position: Winger/fullback


England's Dan Norton runs with the ball during the Plate Final between the US and England for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament. PHOTO: EPA

Known as "the Wasp" for how he is always buzzing around in the game, Norton broke the 1,000 points landmark during the recent Hong Kong Sevens. With a knack of scoring crucial tries, he is England's biggest scoring-threat, scoring a season-best 52 tries during the 2012-13 season. 

7. Collins Injera, 29, Kenya

Position: Winger


Kenya's Collins Injera reacts after scoring during their match against Fiji during the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament. PHOTO: AFP

Second on the World Series all-time tries scored list with 222, it is only a matter of time before Injera overtakes Argentina's Santiago Gomez Cora (230). A mainstay for the team since his debut in 2006, he infamously used a permanent marker to sign the lens of a £60,000 (S$114,310.80) broadcast camera after scoring his 200th try early last year.

8. Fernando Luna, 25, Argentina

Position: Fullback


Argentina's Fernando Luna (Top) is tackled by Australia's James Stannard during the plate final on the second day of the Wellington Sevens rugby Union tournament. PHOTO: AFP 

Captain of the Pumas, Luna's power, straight running and offloading skill was a key reason why Argentina reached the final of the South Africa Sevens in December.

9. Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa, 21, Samoa

Position: Inside centre


Samoa's Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa (left) passes the ball before being tackled by France's Arthur Bonneval (right) during the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament. PHOTO: AFP 

The brightest spark in a struggling Samoa team, with Fijian-like sharp footwork and an abundance of speed and strength, he was part of the dream team in the Canada Sevens last month.