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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Six rugby sevens pool matches to get excited about
Following the announcement of the pools for the men’s and women’s tournaments at next month’s Olympic Games, we look at six matches that have set pulses racing.
In less than four weeks the men’s sevens tournament will get underway at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and excitement ratcheted up on Monday as the pools were announced.
All 24 men’s and women’s teams now know who they will face, and what they must do to make sure they give themselves the best chance of leaving Tokyo Stadium with a medal.
But, which matches are you looking forward to the most? We’ve picked out six encounters that we think should set the pulses racing of fans all around the world.
What a weekend of Sevens! 🔥— All Blacks Sevens (@AllBlacks7s) June 27, 2021
Ngā mihi to @fijirugby, @oceaniarugby and @Aussie7s for such a great hit out. See you in Tokyo!
📸: @GettySport#Oceania7s #RoadToTokyo pic.twitter.com/q0JSBRtWjY
Men’s – New Zealand v Australia (Pool A)
Having won Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 and finished on top of the abbreviated HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020, all eyes will be on New Zealand to see if they can complete a rare hat-trick in Japan.
The All Blacks Sevens’ hopes of securing Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 will be given an early examination when they face Australia in Pool A.
Matches between the two teams have been high-scoring affairs in recent years, with the past 10 meetings on the World Series producing an average of 41.8 points per game.
Australia have not beaten New Zealand in the shortened format since a 19-12 win at the HSBC Singapore Sevens 2018, and will hope to end that long wait in Tokyo next month.
Men’s – Fiji v Great Britain (Pool B)
Fiji’s men’s sevens team delivered the country’s first ever Olympic medal in Rio five years ago, beating Great Britain 43-7 at Deodoro Stadium to ensure it was gold.
And, fans will be treated to a repeat of that gold medal match during the Tokyo 2020 pool stage after the two teams were allocated to Pool B.
Reigning champions Fiji warmed up for next month’s Games with an appearance at the Oceania Sevens in Townsville, where they won six out of six against Australia, New Zealand and an Oceania side to wrap up the title.
The match will pit two of the World Series’ finest players against each other as World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Decade, Jerry Tuwai goes up against Dan Norton.
Great Britain’s Norton has scored more World Series tries (354) than any other player in history and he has crossed the whitewash 17 times against Fiji in all competitions, including in the Rio 2016 gold medal match.
Men’s – South Africa v USA (Pool C)
South Africa won bronze in Rio and the Blitz Boks will be keen to work their way up the podium having won back-to-back World Series titles in 2017 and 2018.
However, Neil Powell’s side won’t have it all their own way in Pool C, which also consists of the USA, Kenya and Olympic debutants Ireland.
The USA have improved consistently in the five years since the last Olympics, and reached five World Series finals in a row as they finished second during the 2019 season.
American hopes against South Africa could hinge on the fitness of Perry Baker, who suffered a broken leg in February. The USA have won only two of the teams’ previous nine meetings, dating back to the start of World Series 2019.
Pure joy and elation 😁— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 21, 2021
Take a closer look at how @russiarugby booked their place at #Tokyo2020 🇷🇺#Rugby7s | #RoadToTokyo pic.twitter.com/a7tM7OycSI
Women’s – New Zealand v Russian Olympic Committee team (Pool A)
The Russian Olympic Committee team will make its Games debut in Tokyo having successfully navigated the Olympic Repechage in Monaco.
Their prize for beating Kazakhstan at Stade Louis II is a place in a formidable looking Pool A, alongside New Zealand, Great Britain and Kenya.
Opponents do not come much bigger than the Black Ferns Sevens, who are Rugby World Cup Sevens holders and won eight of the 11 World Series tournaments played in 2019 and 2020.
The teams have met 27 times in sevens internationals, with the Russians’s only win coming at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens 2015. Two further meetings ended in a draw.
Women’s – Canada v France (Pool B)
France claimed the other women’s place on offer at the Olympic Repechage, and David Courteix’s side find themselves in Pool B alongside Canada, Fiji and Brazil in Pool B.
Séraphine Okemba was the top-try scorer in Monaco, and France contain threats throughout their squad. Anne-Cécile Ciofani and Lina Guerin also excelled at the repechage and it will take committed defence to keep them quiet in Japan.
Canada will be confident of doing just that, and the North Americans know they have the players to worry France in what will be a repeat of the Rio 2016 quarter-final they won 15-5.
Of the teams’ last 10 meetings Canada have won eight, although only three of those were by more than one score. Their Pool B encounter in Japan promises to be one to keep an eye on.
Women’s – Australia v USA (Pool C)
Australia will arrive in Tokyo as Olympic champions, and the superstitious among their squad might take solace from coming up against the USA in the pool stage once again.
The eventual gold medal-winners needed a last-minute Emma Tonegato try to seal a 12-12 draw against the women’s Eagles in Rio, and if their meeting next month is half as dramatic as that you won’t want to miss it.
In the five years since the last Olympics, the two teams have met 13 times in sevens internationals, with the Australians winning eight.
The USA have won five of their last eight encounters, however, and this match will feature some of the most exciting women’s players on the World Series as Alev Kelter, Kris Thomas and Co attempt to dethrone Ellia Green, Charlotte Caslick and Tonegato.