The annual discussion over which pool is the Pool of Death at the 7s Club National Championships is moot this year, as all of the pools are highly competitive.
However, Pool D might just be a little more competitive than most. The Denver Barbarians might have struggled this summer to qualify, but the program has most of the ingredients of the teams that have made the top four in previous years. They add Taylor Howden, who got a waiver because while he was absent from his team's qualifiers, he was absent due to his being on the USA team at the Maccabiah Games. the addition of this elusive, intelligent play raises their prospects. They have Ben Haapapuro and Tommy Pasqueflower, and you now we at RUGBYMag like those guys.
Then look at the Chicago Lions. there is no team that has been as impressive and as consistently so, as the Lions. They won every single qualifier tournament in the Midwest, against some stiff competition. They have some excellent leadership in Eddie Bluemel and Matt Degutes, and young talent such as the revitalized Luke Thiem, and try-scoring Dan Wright. and don't forget Peter Tiberio, who is on a tear.
The Lions could win it all.
Schuylkill River didn't win a qualifier until they won the Mid-Atlantic, but Head Coach Chris Ryan might remind his players that he won a national title with Philly-Whitemarsh when Nationals was the ONLY tournament that team won that year.
Schuylkill has found that Tim Acker, small college player though he is, can carry a team with his enthusiasm and confident play. Bruce Dolan has been a revelation. Gareth Jones is healthy and happy to set up tries. Glen Thommes is an imposing and versatile forward. And there's always Greg Ambrogi, who can simple turn a game on its ear with his athleticism.
OMBAC perhaps sits as the question-mark. Coming third in Southern California is no shame, as that is a tough competition. Still they needed a close win over Santa Monica to book their ticket.
Zach Pangelinan can control a game and OMBAC wins when he can. But he needs support. OMBAC is relatively young and some of those guys need to raise their physicality and their work rate on offense to get past a really, really tough pool.
The Lions have to be favored, but any of these four could win this pool..
Denver Barbarians (Preliminary)
Maximo De Achaval
Setoki Qau Qau
Video of Schuylkill River beating NOVA for the Mid-Atlantic title.