Rugby Sevens at the Olympics: An Introduction

Published on: June 20, 2016

Filled Under: International, Uncategorized

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After a wait of 92 years, Rugby Union is finally returning to the Olympic Games, this time in the far better-suited version of the game, Sevens. Taking place over a single weekend and with matches that last a mere fifteen minutes, Sevens is the perfect type of sport to fit in the tightly packed Olympic schedule and over the past few years teams from all over the world have been fighting to squeeze into the twelve team tournament. After Spain qualified in dramatic fashion, beating favourites Samoa in the repechage final, we finally have our list of teams that will be going for gold in Rio.

 

Argentina:

Image result for flag of ArgentinaWorld Series Ranking: 5th
Method of Qualification: Won the 2015 CONSUR Sevens Championship
Head Coach: Santiago Gomez Cora
Key Players: Axel Muller, Santiago Cordero, Bautista Ezcurra
General Comments: Argentina applies the same sort of style of Rugby to Sevens as they do with the 15-a-side game. They play with a very fast pace with plenty of offloads but are also not afraid to give the forwards a go up the middle.

Australia:
Image result for flag of AustraliaWorld Series Ranking:4th
Method of Qualification: 2015 Oceania Sevens Championship
Head Coach:Andy Friend
Key Players:Henry Hutchison, Pama Fou, Allan Fa’alava’au
General Comments: At the age of just 19, Hutchison has been one of the star players on the Sevens circuit this season. Australia’s power comes from their big men and are one of the most physical teams in the series.

Brazil:
Image result for flag of brazilWorld Series Ranking: 17th
Method of Qualification: Host Nation
Head Coach:  Andres Romagnoli
Key Players:  Daniel Sancery, Felipe Sancery
General Comments: As Brazil are not a core team of the World Sevens Series, it’s difficult to tell where there strengths and weaknesses are. One of them will undoubtedly be a lack of experience against top tier opposition but home advantage at the Olympic games should be enough motivation for this developing Rugby nation to put in a proud performance.

Fiji:
Image result for flag of FijiWorld Series Ranking: 1st
Method of Qualification: Came 1st in the 2014/15 World Sevens Series
Head Coach: Ben Ryan
Key Players:Osea Kolinisau, Jasa Veremalua, Leone Nakawara
General Comments: Fiji is arguably the most exciting Sevens team in the world. They play with what looks like is complete reckless abandon but what is actually carefully honed skills and a Rugby intelligence that is often two or three steps ahead. They base their game around fast paced offloading and always having a support runner available. When you see them play, you can see how they’ve been World Series Champions for the last two seasons.

 France:
Image result for flag of franceWorld Series Ranking: 11th
Method of Qualification: Rugby Europe Sevens Championships 2015
Head Coach: Frederic Pomarel
Key Players: Julien Candelon, Virimi Vakatawa, Pierre Gilles Lakafia
General Comments: The French team is a somewhat recent revelation on the Sevens Circuit, only starting to become a threat over the past couple of seasons. Despite being ranked 11th, France managed to come 3rd in their home tournament in Paris in May, and are likely to cause more than a few upsets at the Olympics.

 Great Britain:
Image result for flag of united kingdomWorld Series Ranking: 8th(England), 10th(Scotland) and 12th(Wales)
Method of Qualification: England came 4th in the 2014/15 World Sevens Series, qualifying GB as a whole
Head Coach: Simon Amor
Key Players: Dan Norton, Sam Cross, Mark Robertson
General Comments: This is an odd one as Team GB does not compete on the Sevens circuit, instead England, Scotland and Wales compete as three separate nations. To qualify for the Olympics, England was nominated to represent GB in the Sevens Series but at the Olympics, the team will be comprised of players from all three countries.

Japan:

Image result for flag of JapanWorld Series Ranking: 15th
Method of Qualification: 2015 ARFU Sevens Championships
Head Coach: Tomohiro Segawa
Key Players: Lomano Lemeki, Yoshikazu Fujita, Chihito Matsui
General Comments: Japan’s best result this season was a 6th place finish in Las Vegas, losing to New Zealand in the Plate Final. I wouldn’t expect them to do the same in the Olympics but they’re more than capable of pulling off an upset or two in the pool stages.

Kenya:

Image result for flag of KenyaWorld Series Ranking: 7th
Method of Qualification: 2015 Rugby Africa Sevens Competition
Head Coach: Benjamin Ayimba

Key Players: Collins Injera, William Ambaka, Nelson Odhiambo Oyoo

General Comments: The Kenyan team is possibly the most frustratingly inconsistent team in Sevens Rugby. On their day they can beat any team in the world but are unfortunately prone to performing well under their abilities. They’re not short of try scoring ability, however, with Collins Injera having recently broken the record for most international tries.

New Zealand:

Image result for flag of new zealandWorld Series Ranking: 3rd
Method of Qualification: Came 3rd in the 2014/14 World Sevens Series
Head Coach: Gordon Tietjens
Key Players: Sonny Bill Williams, Gillies Kaka, Regan Ware
General Comments:  New Zealand isn’t quite the powerhouse in Sevens that they are in 15s but they aren’t far off it. Dominant a few years ago, they’ve been beaten more than they’d like in these seasons leading up to the Olympics, so while they’re still medal favourites, drawing the All Blacks may not be as bad of a thing as it used to be.

South Africa:

Image result for flag of south africaWorld Series Ranking: 2nd
Method of Qualification: Came 2nd in the 2014/15 World Sevens Series
Head Coach: Neil Powell
Key Players: Seabelo Senatla, Cecil Afrika, Philip Snyman
General Comments: South Africa’s Seven’s team is built on speed and power, none of this fancy offloading rubbish. They base their game around outmuscling or outpacing their opposition and so far it have been very very successful.

Spain:

Image result for flag of spainWorld Series Ranking: N/A
Method of Qualification: Monaco Repechage Champions 2016
Head Coach: Ignacio Inchausti
Key Players: Ignacio Martin, Pablo Feijóo
General Comments: It’s difficult to comment on Spain as they have not been a Core team on the Sevens Series since 2013, but what we can talk about is their performance in Monaco. Beating Samoa (ranked 9th in the world) in the final with a last-minute try and seeing their captain crying tears of joy shows how much Spain have worked for this opportunity. Don’t expect them to go far in terms of a medal, but don’t expect them to go down without a fight either.

United States of America:

Image result for flag of USAWorld Series Ranking: 6th
Method of Qualification: 2015 NACRA Sevens Championship
Head Coach: Mike Friday
Key Players: Perry Baker, Madison Hughes, Danny Barrett
General Comments: The USA have been one of the most surprising teams of the past few years. They had barely ever been a threat until a few seasons ago, but when Mike Friday took over it was like a whole new team. He had introduced star players like Carlin Isles who were not only scoring tries for fun, but also raising awareness of Rugby in the States. After winning the London 7s last year and knowing how the Americans love the Olympics, expect the USA to be outside medal contenders.

 

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