While current table-toppers Argentina and Ireland are vying to become the first HSBC SVNS League Winners in Singapore this weekend and go into the Grand Final in Madrid as top seeds, at the other end of the standings there is the small matter of the battle to survive at the highest level of the game.

Fate has dictated that USA and Great Britain, the two main protagonists for the final place in the top eight – and a guaranteed ticket to HSBC SVNS 2025 and the Grand Final in Madrid in a month’s time – have been drawn together in the same pool.

Both have games against Fiji and Ireland to navigate in Pool C first, so by the time they meet in the opening match of day two (13:15 local time, GMT+8), they will have a fair idea of what is required to finish the right side of the top eight/bottom four cut-off point.

As things stand, USA occupy eighth place with a seven-point buffer between themselves and Great Britain.

USA lead the SVNS 2024 head-to-head record 4-2 with both Great Britain’s victories coming in Cape Town, so will start as favourites. But Men’s Eagles Sevens head coach Mike Friday predicts all will not be won or lost on that one game.

“Obviously the game with GB is the talking point for everybody down the bottom of the table and it’s good to have your destiny in your own hands. But there are two other games in that group as well – Ireland and Fiji,” he said.

“We can all enjoy the gladiator match-up between USA and GB but I think there are a few twists and turns to be had in this tournament that may dictate what happens. GB are more than capable of beating Fiji and Ireland, as are we.

“It is going to go down to the wire, for sure.”

The teams ranked ninth to 12th at the end of the Singapore tournament face an altogether different scenario to the eight teams challenging for the title as they’ll compete with the top four teams from the World Rugby HSBC Challenger 2024 in a relegation-promotion tournament.

“It is a pretty brutal scenario that a third of the teams on the world series have to go into a relegation draw but those are the rules of the game and it could be that we both progress and go deep into the tournament,” added Friday.

“So it’s all to play for and we are excited and up for the challenge. We know what is expected and required if you want to be successful on the world series.”

Seven teams have so far guaranteed their place at the HSBC SVNS Grand Final in Madrid – Argentina, Ireland, Fiji, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Canada cannot escape the bottom four and face the relegation play-off in Madrid, while Spain and Samoa are up against it, and USA or Great Britain are also in danger. 

Another milestone for Baker

Perry Baker is set to run out for his 70th SVNS tournament, becoming the second USA player to reach that landmark behind Folau Niua, who played in 76 tournaments.

Friday has made three changes to his 13-man squad with Naima Fuala’au, Lucas Lacamp and Adam Chanel in for Orrin Bizer, Faitala Talapusi and Maka Unufe.

Jamie Farndale returns to the Great Britain squad for his 60th event on the series, while Api Bavadra is the other change from Hong Kong.

Ireland’s push for the League Winner’s mantle is boosted by having Jordan Conroy available.

Conroy, Ireland’s record try-scorer, is one of four new faces with another stalwart, Billy Dardis, joining him in Singapore. Connor O’Sullivan and debutant Josh Costello are the other changes. In-form Zac Ward, however, misses out.

Fiji, meanwhile, have a much-changed squad with seven new faces making the trip to Asia, including fit-again duo Kaminieli Rasaku and Terio Veilawa. Veteran Sevuloni Mocenacagi is another to return as Fiji go in search of their first podium finish of the series.

Moneta out, Wilson debuts

Pool A contains three powerhouses in SVNS 2024 leaders Argentina, who are bidding to win their first overall title, and the champions of the previous two years, New Zealand and Australia. Canada, currently bottom of the standings, are the fourth team in the pool.

Marcos Moneta is a significant loss for Argentina who welcome back Santiago Alvarez and Tomás Elizalde.

Moneta broke his leg in Los Pumas Sevens’ opening game in Hong Kong and they failed to make the quarter-finals without the try-scoring machine who was nominated for the World Rugby’s Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2023, having won the award already in 2021.

For New Zealand, Kitiona Vai is set to take the field alongside his younger brother, Cody, after being sidelined with injury for almost two years. Lewis Ormond, Leroy Carter and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black are also fit again as the All Black Sevens look to back up their win in Hong Kong.

Australia face Argentina first up – for the first time since they met in the Perth final at the end of January, a 31-5 win for the South Americans.

“I was actually quite excited when we got them in the draw,” said Australia coach John Manenti.

“I know that sounds strange but they beat us in Perth and it was 7-0 at half-time before we made a few mistakes and they ran away with it. We haven’t seen them since, we’ve played New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa numerous times but we haven’t seen them again.

“It’s really important to play the best teams in the lead up in Paris and the world series [Grand] Final so we can work out how to play them. They’re quite a different side than a lot of others on the circuit so you do have to challenge them in a different way," he said.

“It gives us a really good chance to see where we’re at against the top of the ladder.”

The big squad news coming out of Australia is the inclusion of former U20 captain, Teddy Wilson.

The son of former Wallaby and Rugby World Cup winner David is set to make his series debut and is one of two changes to the side from Hong Kong. James MacGregor also comes into the squad for his second tournament appearance.

Two of the four series debutants set to be on show in Singapore can be found in Pool A with Canada handing Henry Kirwan his first outing.

The Cardiff Met player will be joined in Singapore by several more established names returning from injury, including Liam Bowman, Matthew Oworu, Brock Webster and David Richard.

Seasonal bow for Blitzboks star Soyizwapi

South Africa and Spain get proceedings underway in Pool B at 13:58 local time (GMT+8) on Friday, with France and Samoa entering the fray immediately after.

The Blitzbokswelcome back talisman Siviwe Soyizwapi from knee surgery, with the 31-year-old set to make his first appearance in SVNS 2024.

Meanwhile, Dylan Sage has been given an opportunity to press his claims for a second Olympic Games medal – should South Africa get there.

Sage, who last played in Singapore in 2018, won a bronze medal at Rio 2016 and hopes to help South Africa make it to Paris 2024 via the Olympic repechage event in Monaco in June.

“Yes, it is still not guaranteed, and neither will be my selection, but I am willing to give it a shot,” said Sage.

“For now, just want to get some tournament time in and get the feet working to the sevens beat again.”

France are still without Antoine Dupont, who remains on club duty with Toulouse competing in this weekend’s Champions Cup semi-finals.

Les Bleus Sevens have made four changes to their squad, with Jean Pascal Barraque set to play in his 40th world series tournament.

Spain can count on Pol Pla’s experience as he is one of two changes to the 13-man squad in Hong Kong, while Samoa hand a debut to Enosa Afemai.

See the HSBC SVNS champions crowned in Madrid, 31 May-2 June. Tickets from €10 are available to purchase here