Her name is Rio…
For the first three days of the rugby programme in Rio the women take centre stage as the world watches the first team event at the 2016 Olympics. What a way to start!
The women’s game is a big part of rugby sevens, and will showcase the 12 teams who have qualified through consistent excellence and through being the best in their continent.
Into the Olympic Village we go pic.twitter.com/7jhfJy6AYr— Alicia Quirk (@aliciaquirk) August 1, 2016
Whereas the men’s tournament is set to be one of the hardest to call a winner of in recent times, the women’s is a bit more polarised in terms of competitiveness. Never the less, stranger things have happened in sport than a red hot favourite succumbing to a lesser rival on paper - but the power, pace, skill sets and sheer dominance of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Team GB and USA have been in evidence all year.
The women come into this environment with a chance of building on the growth of their series. The exposure seen throughout the world in women’s rugby is largely down to some of these incredibly talented players from all corners of the globe.
Many teams are now professional and with that they get a chance to develop the finer points of their game, such as offloading, passing accuracy and attacking structures – which combined with their demanding conditioning programmes mean they sustain the high levels of athleticism for the whole duration of the tournament.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada would be odds on for the medal spots, but Team GB, USA, France and huge improvers of late, Fiji, are all capable of pushing for the all important semi-final spots, of which we know how competitive these can be featuring the aforementioned teams.
Each of the power nations don’t only have incredible skill sets across the whole team, they are able to add to that with some dazzling individual players who can create something from nothing – all with very different styles.
When you realize a dream, it is not a dream anymore. pic.twitter.com/iRg0aX5Dol— Ghislaine Landry (@ghis_landry) July 31, 2016
Portia Woodman for New Zealand has clocked up a mass of points through a mix of brutality, power and pace. Australia have the ability to call upon the guile and grace of Ellia Green who can blaze around most defences. Canada have the playmaker Ghislaine Landry to pull the strings, set things up and, if needed, finish from afar in the middle of the pitch – as well as a great kicking game.
What will make the spectacle greater during the pool games will be the battles for the all-important seedings. The women are well versed with this format; re-seeding the teams in a different way to for any viewers of the men’s series.
Pool B and C in particular throw up some mouth-watering battles as Australia take on Fiji and USA and Pool C sees Canada take on Team GB. The calculators will be out for the final pool games as everyone will want to avoid the big three.
The fact that the teams of men and women are able to don their countries colours and take part in a spectacle far greater than just the game of rugby is a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate.
The players set to be Olympians will be able to return home, build on their experiences and inspire the next generation of players to be competing alongside them on what will be another highly competitive women's series in December.
However, before that – all eyes will be on Deodoro Stadium to see who will make history.