- Rugby sevens returns to Olympic stage as men’s competition begins on Monday
- Hosts Japan face reigning Olympic champions Fiji in exciting first game at 09:00 local time
- Final squads are confirmed for the men’s competition
- Four rugby sevens players honoured to carry their nation’s flag in Opening Ceremony
- Fans can keep up to date on social media by following #rugby7s
Rugby sevens makes its highly anticipated return to the Olympic stage on Monday, 26 July as the men’s competition begins with a thrilling encounter between hosts Japan and reigning Olympic champions Fiji at 09:00 local time (GMT+9) in Tokyo.
While Fiji claimed gold on an unforgettable Olympic debut for rugby sevens at Rio 2016, New Zealand are the current Rugby World Cup Sevens (2018) and HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series (2020) champions and the competition for medals has never been closer with a number of teams showing they capable of reaching the podium in the past two years, while Japan showed their potential by finishing fourth at the Rio 2016 Games.
The men’s competition will culminate with the gold medal match at 18:00 local time on 28 July. The women’s tournament will follow on 29-31 July with the gold medal match taking place on ‘Super Saturday’.
The squads for the men’s competition have now been finalised and include a number of players who have previously appeared at Rugby World Cups in the 15-a-side version of the game.
The Olympic competition format sees the 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams allocated to three pools of four teams, according to rankings based upon performances in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and other World Rugby sanctioned tournaments over the past two years.
In the men’s competition three of the top four placed teams from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are together in Pool B as reigning champions Fiji will face silver medallists Great Britain and hosts Japan, who finished a very creditable fourth in Rio, along with Olympic debutants Canada who claimed bronze at the last HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event in Vancouver last year.
Pool A sees a renewal of the mouth-watering antipodean rivalry between current Rugby World Cup Sevens and World Series champions New Zealand and Australia, who met in the final of the last Series event in Vancouver, with the All Blacks Sevens winning a tightly contested match 17-14. Joining them in Pool A are Argentina, who finished sixth in Rio, alongside Olympic debutants the Republic of Korea who qualified for Tokyo by winning the Asian qualification tournament with an extra-time ‘golden point’ try to overcome Hong Kong.
South Africa, bronze medallists in Rio, and USA are in Pool C having both achieved direct Olympic qualification by finishing in the top four of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019, where the USA Sevens Eagles finished runners-up after reaching the medal podium in seven of the 10 rounds. Joining them are Kenya, who qualified courtesy of their first Rugby Africa men's sevens title since 2015, and Olympic debutants Ireland, who secured the final spot thanks to a thrilling 28-19 victory over France in the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco last month.
Each of the six days of action is split into two sessions with six matches involving all 12 teams taking place during each session of the early stages of both the men’s and women’s competitions. The finals sessions will include four matches and the victory ceremony.
All the action will take place at Tokyo Stadium, which proved itself to be a superb rugby venue when hosting Rugby World Cup 2019, including the opening and bronze medal matches.
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “The stage is set for Tokyo 2020 to be the most special and significant Olympic Games in history. Following the outstanding success of Rugby World Cup 2019 we are delighted to be back in Japan for what promises to be another historic event.
“We have been working very closely together with the IOC, Tokyo 2020 and all other stakeholders to deliver a safe, secure and highly impactful Olympic rugby sevens competition with player welfare and the core rugby values of solidarity, integrity and respect at heart.
“While these will certainly be unique Games, with challenges and opportunities never faced before, the preparations are complete and the ball is now in the hands of the players who I am sure will rise to the occasion and bring much needed joy, inspiration and unity to the watching global audience with their incredible skill, dedication, talent and commitment.”
Fiji men’s coach Gareth Baber said: “We know that the mindset for every team that plays against Fiji is it’s like an Olympic final, but so is it for us. Every game is a final and if we are going to do what we have set to do coming here, we are going to have to win six finals. So at nine o’clock on Monday morning we are going into a final and how we’ve trained and the mental preparation that we’ve got is hugely important for that.”
Japan men’s coach Kensuke Iwabuchi said: “I would like to express my gratitude to the many people who have supported us and helped us to play at Tokyo 2020. There is a lot of pressure on the players who play in the Olympics in Tokyo. There was a lot of pressure on the Japanese players during Rugby World Cup 2019 too. I'm confident that I have selected players who can perform while enjoying the pressure.”
GB Sevens captain Tom Mitchell said: “We’re loving the preparation out here in Japan, it’s great to be back in an exciting environment with the sense of anticipation before a tournament; it’s a feeling I’ve definitely missed over the last 15 to 16 months. We are working really hard and we have got a great group of boys out here. We’re excited about what we can do. The best thing is seeing the other sevens teams around the Olympic Village and knowing that everyone has been on a really difficult journey to get to this point. It’s a really rewarding feeling seeing everyone come together ahead of what will be an amazing and exciting tournament.”
Canada men’s co-captain Nathan Hirayama said: “It’s an honour to compete for Canada at Tokyo 2020. We travel the world representing Canada but this will be my first Olympic Games and we’re excited. It’s been an unprecedented year but we’ve been training hard and look forward to competing and showcasing sevens on such a massive stage.”
USA men’s sevens captain Madison Hughes said: “We can't wait to get back on the field and get into the competition. The Olympics has taken sevens to a whole new level over the years, especially after a great debut in Rio. I think Tokyo will have another massive impact, and as we look ahead to the next few years, it can deliver a big jump for sevens all over the world.”
The match officials appointments have been made for the first day of action in both the men’s and women’s competitions and the Judicial Officers appointed for the Olympic competition have been confirmed as Citing Commissioners James Sherriff (Rugby Australia) and Danae Zamboulis (Rugby Football Union), and Judicial/Appeal Officers Shao-ing Wang (Singapore Rugby Union) and Christopher Quinlan QC (World Rugby’s independent Judicial Panel Chairman).
Rugby sevens’ first appearance at Rio 2016 had a profound, game-changing effect, attracting an estimated 30 million new fans globally, with the history-making story of Fiji’s first-ever Olympic medal one of the most memorable moments of the Games.
The dynamic, action-packed nature of rugby sevens has captured the attention of fans around the world, with research showing women and the 18-24 age group were the most strongly supportive of sevens’ fit with the Olympics.
In a sign of the respect shown towards rugby’s values, and a reflection of how well sevens was received on its Games debut in Rio, four players from different countries were awarded the honour of carrying the flag for their country at the Opening Ceremony on Friday.
Women’s players Sarah Hirini (New Zealand) and Rusila Nagasau (Fiji) and men’s players Nathan Hirayama (Canada) and Andrew Amonde (Kenya) were the proud individuals selected by their National Olympic Committees.
A Media Guide featuring a preview from World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont, alongside a wealth of competition information, including profiles and squad lists for the 24 participating teams, an A-Z of rugby sevens stars to watch, a timeline of rugby sevens’ history, as well as interesting statistics surrounding the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is now available.