For the past three days, 12 women's teams have been battling it out for the first ever rugby sevens medals at an Olympic Games.
After a 92-year hiatus rugby is back at the Games and on Tuesday it will be the turn of the men to help continue to show the International Olympic Committee why rugby sevens is a fantastic addition to the Olympic programme for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
Anyone who has even caught a glimpse of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series will know what is on the agenda. Twelve teams, chock full of incredibly fit, finely-tuned athletes whose bodies are built for the most intense format of rugby in the world.
Fiji, a team name on everyone's lips going into the Games as they chase their first ever Olympic medal, have been put through their paces by head coach Ben Ryan on the sand dunes back home, while the likes of Argentina have been focusing on log carrying and tyre flipping to improve their overall performance.
"All the teams look primed and ready," said Ryan, in his recent column for World Rugby. "Across the board fitness test personal bests are being broken as all 12 teams aim to peak. Plans have been hatched on how best to cope with all that comes with Olympic competition. The format is a different one to what we are used to but it’s still six games over three days."
Pool A: Fiji, USA, Argentina, Brazil
Ryan's Fiji squad not only have the incentive of a gold medal driving them forward, but also the fact that they come into the competition as top seeds having just won consecutive world series titles. Three tournament wins in 2015-16, including a second consecutive title in Hong Kong, put them top of the pile in the world standings but it will not be all plain sailing in Pool A for Fiji.
Mike Friday's USA side come into the competition having finished sixth overall on the world series but with a fully rejuvenated squad, including the likes of Perry Baker, Madison Hughes, Carlin Isles and NFL convert Nate Ebner, they are a dangerous prospect for their rivals. On the world series, they finished third in Dubai and London, taking some big scalps along the way such as New Zealand, who they beat twice under the Dubai sun.
"Fiji are the team everyone needs to beat," said Friday. "Sevens is their national game and it suits their strengths. The pressure is on them to win their country’s first gold medal in Rio."
Santiago Gomez Cora's Argentina side may have something to say about that having finished fifth on the world series and coming very close to their first Cup victory in Cape Town last December where they were overpowered by hosts South Africa. Gomez Cora, the former all-time top try scorer on the world series, says he is looking forward to his side's debut at the Games.
"We are thinking of our Olympic debut against the USA on Tuesday. There are very few hours left before we take the field and it will be extremely exciting, but mostly a huge responsibility. As we’ve been saying, our first stop is USA, a team we have played a lot over the years. We’ve been planning the Olympic Games for a long time so we are ready."
Hosts Brazil also contain a few dangerous players, such as the Duque brothers - Lucas and Moises - who showed on the few tournaments they competed in on the world series just why os Tupis won't be a walkover.
Pool B: South Africa, Australia, France, Spain
If you look at the world series, a pattern emerges for South Africa and a frustrating one at that for head coach Neil Powell. His side have finished second for the past four years. Even on the 2015-16 series South Africa only took one win from four finals, a disappointing conversion rate. However, even with the likes of 15s stars Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe drafted in to bolster the ranks, Powell is aware of the challenges ahead.
“We knew that Pool B is going to be a tough pool … with four top circuit teams. Playing France first is going to be a tough one. With France, you never know what you’re going to get. If they pitch up on the day, then you’ll probably get the best team in the world.”
Powell's high praise may not be unfounded despite a somewhat disappointing world series for France, who finished 11th overall with their best finishes of third coming in Cape Town and Paris. Sevens magicians like Terry Bouhraoua and Virimi Vakatawa have the ability to turn a game on its head but if they are to compete with the likes of Fiji and Australia, France will need to be on song.
Australia achieved two final appearances during the 10 rounds of the world series, narrowly losing out in Sydney to a last-gasp New Zealand try. In Las Vegas they lost 21-15 to Fiji, despite being 15-0 up at half-time. Head coach Andy Friend has plenty of talent at his disposal, with Cameron Clark, Lewis Holland and Henry Hutchison all primed to help get Australia into medal contention.
"I know our team has got stronger since the world series but I know every other team will have done the same," said Friend. "We've had a two and a half month build-up to this so it's a little bit like a first game of the world series having just done pre-season, but this is a pre-season at the back of a world series season so we have been able to continue that momentum on from the world series so it's quite unique."
The final prospect in Pool B is Spain, the 12th team to qualify for the Olympic Games after winning the repechage in Monaco, beating Samoa in the process. A passionate Pablo Feijoo is one of their star names, but realistically against the likes of core teams it will be an uphill battle, but one Spain certainly won't shy away from.
Pool C: New Zealand, Great Britain, Kenya, Japan
Experience counts for a lot in rugby sevens and New Zealand enter the Olympic stage with the most experienced head coach of the 12 teams, Gordon Tietjens. The 60-year-old not only is a master tactician as we saw against South Africa in Vancouver earlier in the year, but he also has a plentiful supply of world-class athletes at his disposal. Despite 12 world series titles, Titjens is aware of the challenges that face his side in Pool C and has been inspired by the Olympic atmoshpere in Rio already.
“You are up against the best and you have to be the best to go out to win a gold medal. It’s amazing when you see the number of talented athletes in the village and what they aspire to do at these Games and the sheer hard work you have to put in.”
Tietjens' respect for the opposition in Pool C is rightly given. Team GB, despite being a completely new-look outfit, is a melting pot of talent featuring the likes of England's Tom Mitchell, Waels' Sam Cross and Scotland's Mark Bennett. England coach Simon Amor is at the helm and despite no world series tournament victories in 2015-16, rest assured Team GB will be a tough opposition.
One Team GB star not taking anything for granted is Dan Bibby, a star on the world series with England.
“It is the Olympics, there will be a few more emotions flying about and a bit more adrenaline, but you try to take it as another game and take each game the same, no matter who you are playing,” he said. “You give each team the same respect. It is going to be exciting. Sevens is a funny game, you can lose a game on the bounce of a ball or a referee decision. We would not say we are definitely going to win gold, but that is the ultimate aim.”
After their first ever Cup win in Singapore in April, Kenya head into the Olympic Games as a serious medal contender having beaten the best sides on the circuit during the 2015-16 series. Head coach Benjamin Ayimba is renowned for pushing his players to the limit, usually squeezing in several gym and training sessions on a normal week in the world series. It paid off on the series and according to captain Andrew Amonde, the players are ready to go.
"We are very excited to be in Rio. Preparation has been good and we feel fresh and acclimatised to the conditions in Brazil," said Amonde. "A key for us is the support back home in Kenya. The fans always drive us on and we will need them more than ever in Rio."
The final contender in Pool C is Japan, a team that on its day can cause upsets. Las Vegas on the world series was a great example of Japan's potential, where they drew with England, beat Scotland, then beat Kenya in the Plate semi-final only to go on and lose to New Zealand. They also won the series qualifier in Hong Kong. With the likes of Lomano Lemeki, a devastating player with ball in hand, expect Japan to be playing hard in Rio.