All the build-up to rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games 2022
With just seven days to go until the men’s and women’s tournaments get underway at Coventry Stadium, we take a look at what fans can expect.
New Zealand will put their men’s and women’s Commonwealth Games titles on the line when the Birmingham 2022 rugby sevens tournaments kick off on Friday.
With many of the very best men’s and women’s teams in the world taking to the pitch at Coventry Stadium, including all the previous Olympic gold medallists, fans will be treated to a real showcase of world-class rugby sevens.
Tickets for the tournament can be purchased now at www.birmingham2022.com with prices for adults starting at £15 for adults on Friday, 29 July and £22 on Saturday, 30 July and Sunday 31 July. Tickets for under 16s start at £8 on all three days.
With less than 72 hours to go until the action gets underway, we take a look at six players who should have a big impact at Coventry Stadium.
A Commonwealth Games gold medallist four years ago, Michaela Blyde scored one of the three tries that helped New Zealand to a nail-biting 17-12 defeat of Australia in the final.
Since then, she has arguably become an even more important player for the Black Ferns Sevens and contributed seven tries to the cause as New Zealand won the Olympic title in Tokyo last year.
Blyde and her teammates were forced to sit and watch much of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 at home due to the ongoing pandemic, however, on the evidence of the final two tournaments of the season she will arrive at Coventry Stadium in fine form.
In only 12 matches across the events in Langford and Toulouse, Blyde crossed the whitewash 15 times. Her try-scoring form helped the Black Ferns Sevens reach both finals and they will be keen to defend their Commonwealth Games title this weekend.
Having been given his break at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last July, Ronald Brown has become arguably South Africa’s most important, and potent, player.
To date, only three male players have scored more points on the 2022 Series than Brown whose 18 tries and 52 conversions have put the Blitzboks in touching distance of the title.
Prior to the Tokyo Games, Brown had not appeared on the Series, however, he has handled the step up with aplomb and will head to Coventry Stadium full of confidence.
If the Blitzboks are to win a second Commonwealth Games gold medal, then they will need the 26-year-old playmaker on top form.
Another player set to make their Commonwealth Games debut at Coventry Stadium, Faith Nathan has cemented her place in the Australia backline during the 2022 Series.
Nathan started all six of Australia’s matches at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, ending the tournament with four tries as the defending champions finished a disappointing fifth.
Only two players, Ireland’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Nathan’s teammate Charlotte Caslick, scored more tries than her 29 – 21 of which came in her last 19 appearances.
She is more than just an electric finisher, though. Nathan, who turns 22 on Wednesday, is a presence on both sides of the ball and her frequency of tackles, breaks and carries helped her finish the 2022 Series fourth on the DHL Impact Player Table.
Former Fiji U20 international Kaminieli Rasaku burst onto the sevens scene during the 2022 Series and will hope to repeat the trick on his Commonwealth Games debut.
He has been a consistent presence on the scoreboard, touching down three times in his first two Series matches and going on to notch 19 tries in total with one tournament left to play.
Rasaku is a willing runner and keen tackler, attributes that have helped him into the top five of the men’s DHL Impact Player Table.
Should he have a similar influence on this weekend’s tournament then Fiji may well finally get their hands on a Commonwealth Games gold medal.
Australia star Corey Toole highlighted his undoubted athletic ability during the most recent men’s Series tournament in London, running from inside his own in-goal area to score a try against Canada.
Toole received the ball behind his posts but sped past three Canadian defenders on his way to the line, more than 100 metres in the distance.
The sight of Toole dotting the ball down has become an increasingly familiar one and his 38 tries during the 2022 Series – second only to Ireland’s Terry Kennedy – have kept Australia in contention for the title.
He also sits atop the men’s DHL Impact Player Table with one tournament to go and will hope he can help lead Australia to the Commonwealth Games final for the first time since 2010.
One of the standout performers at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Reapi Ulunisau has carried that form into the 2022 Series.
Ulunisau scored 18 tries in 22 matches during the 2022 Series as Fiji finished third, level on points with second-placed France.
Despite playing in only four of the six tournaments due to the pandemic, Ulunisau’s all-round game enabled her to end the season sixth on the women’s DHL Impact Player Table.
Having scored eight tries to help Fiji win bronze at the Olympics in Tokyo last July, the 27-year-old will want to leave a similar impression on her first Commonwealth Games.