The final squads have been confirmed for the final round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, taking place in Paris on 1-2 June.
The race for the series title is hotter than ever with only two points separating Fiji (164) and USA (162) in first and second position.
Fiji overtook USA on the leader board in London last weekend where they celebrated not only the Cup final win, but qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
They were joined by USA and New Zealand who also booked their spots alongside Japan who earn automatic qualification as host nation.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series serves as the principal route to Tokyo 2020 qualification, with the top four teams going through.
Currently ranked fourth in the standings, South Africa have all but joined Fiji, USA and New Zealand, needing simply to walk onto the field of play in Paris to confirm their place.
Series leaders Fiji have made one change to their squad for this weekend with Napolioni Bolaca coming into the side. They will be hoping that their winning momentum continues as they fight for the overall title at the Stade Jean-Bouin this weekend.
After securing the bronze medal last weekend, USA have made one change to their squad with Joe Schroeder replacing Brett Thompson.
USA captain Madison Hughes is looking to end the season on a high by building on their performance in London, commenting: “There are a few small technical areas that we need to improve upon – if you look back at that semi-final it came down to a few moments where we turned the ball over, giving them opportunities.
“You know that if you turn over the ball against Fiji, they’re going to make you pay, and they did in that game.
“So we’re going to work on those few small technical areas and limit our turnovers, and if we do that and believe in ourselves, I think we’ll have a good weekend.”
Ranked in third place with 143 points, New Zealand have made two changes to their 12-man squad for the season finale. Scott Gregory has been released to the New Zealand U20s with Amanaki Nicole coming in as a replacement while Ngarohi McGarvey-Black has been called up as an injury replacement for Kurt Baker.
Co-captain Tim Mikkelson is expecting consistency from his side this weekend, commenting: “We played two or three really good games on the first day in London and then on the second day we played a good half but then we had no ball and no possession in the second half and lost to a very good French team. We just want that consistency of playing really well for six games.”
New Zealand will be celebrating a milestone within their squad this weekend as co-captain Scott Curry will earn his 50th cap as he takes to the pitch at the Stade Jean-Bouin.
He will be joined by France’s Terry Bouhraoua who will also be marking his 50th cap in Paris, and will be looking for the support of the home crowd to give his team an extra boost, as well as Kenya’s Andrew Amonde who will reach 70 appearances for his country this weekend.
Two sevens stalwarts will be marking the end of their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series careers this weekend as James Rodwell – the most capped rugby sevens player of all time – will play his last series game for England in what will be his 93rd cap.
Scotland’s highest capped rugby sevens player, Scott Riddell announced his retirement from rugby sevens earlier this week and will bow out after Paris having made 74 appearances for his country.
On retirement, Riddell commented: “If you’d said to me when I first started that I’d play for Scotland for a decade, I wouldn’t have believed you. We’ve had a few good times and a few tough times but looking back on it all it’s been an amazing experience.
“It’ll take a wee while for retirement to sink in but I have been so lucky to play for Scotland for as long as I have and I’ll walk off the pitch in Paris knowing I’ve given everything I can.”
Elsewhere, there will be ten players making their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debuts in Paris with the youngest being 18 year-olds Api Bavadra from England and Francisco Osete from Spain. Bavadra will be joined by five other England debutants while Ireland have named two players making their first appearances on the world stage and Samoa naming one.
23 points separate the four teams at the bottom end of the table with Spain (48 points), Wales (30 points), Kenya (27 points) and Japan (12 points) sitting at twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth place respectively, so there is all to play for in Paris this weekend.
The pool draw will see series leaders Fiji take on England, Ireland and Argentina in Pool A. Pool B features fourth-placed South Africa alongside Wales, Australia and Kenya. Second-placed USA will battle it out against Canada, Samoa and Spain in Pool C, and hosts France will line up against New Zealand, Scotland and Japan.
The action kicks off at the Stade Jean-Bouin at 11:00 local time on Saturday with Canada taking on Samoa in the first of the pool games.
Tickets for the HSBC Paris Sevens are still available from €15. For more information and to book, click here.