Path to the podium: Men’s Rugby Sevens
21 July 2016
RUGBY SEVENS: Rugby Union returns to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1924 as the speed and skill of the sevens format hits Rio’s Deodoro Stadium.
The Aussie men have their eyes on a historic medal in the event having placed in the top five in the past two World Series seasons.
The Rio 2016 competition features three groups of four teams with the top two teams from each group, and the two highest ranked third placed teams, progressing through to the quarter-finals. From there the knockout phase of the competition begins and the medals will eventually be decided.
The Aussies have been drawn alongside World Series heavyweights South Africa, France and Spain.
Captain Ed Jenkins is the nation’s most capped player in the sport and will be crucial if Australia are to climb onto the Rio podium. He gives his thoughts on each team that stands in the way of Australia claiming an Olympic medal.
Pool B opponents
2015/16 World Series ranking: 2nd
Recent results vs Australia: South Africa 17-7 Australia (Paris Sevens), South Africa 31-0 Australia (Paris Sevens)
Star players: Cecil Africa, Seabelo Senatla, Rosko Specman
Ed Jenkins: “Proved themselves to be one of the top sides over the past few years. They’ve got a lot of speed and are very dangerous. They are the main contenders in our pool.”
2015/16 World Series ranking: 11th
Recent results vs Australia: France 7-38 Australia (2015 Scotland Sevens), France 14-31 Australia (2015 USA Sevens)
Star players: Virimi Vakatawa, Terry Bouhraoua, Julien Candelon
Ed Jenkins: “They’ve been improving throughout the season and did really well at their own home tournament a couple of months back where they made the semis. They are a real danger side with plenty of quality players.”
2015/16 World Series ranking: N/A
Recent results vs Australia: N/A
Star players: Ignacio Martin, Pablo Feijoo
Ed Jenkins: “They’re the unknown. They haven’t been on the world circuit for a number of years and there is not too much game footage of them floating around. They did really well to knock off Samoa at the final qualification tournament which was a huge milestone for them and we can’t afford to take them lightly.”
Potential knockout phase opponents
2015/16 World Series ranking: 17th
Recent results vs Australia: New Zealand 31-7 Australia (Singapore Sevens), New Zealand 28-19 Australia (Canada Sevens)
Star players: Sonny Bill Williams, Gilles Kaka, Akira Ioane
Ed Jenkins: “They’ve been going well throughout the World Series. They had a couple of wins through this year and have brought in a few of their fifteens players including Sonny Bill Williams. They’re always a tough side and will be a big challenger over in Rio.
2015/16 World Series ranking: England – 8th, Scotland – 10th, Wales – 12th
Recent results vs Australia: Wales 24-19 (London Sevens), England 10-7 Australia(London Sevens), Scotland 17-24 Australia (Canada Sevens)
Star players: Tom Mitchell, Jamie Farndale, Dan Norton
Ed Jenkins: “England was probably the strongest side throughout the World Series but they get the chance to put an ‘all stars’ team together for Rio making them tough to beat.”
2015/16 World Series ranking: 17th
Recent results vs Australia: Fiji 26-0 Australia (London Sevens), Fiji 17-15 Australia (Paris Sevens)
Star players: Vatemo Ravouvou, Savenaca Rawaca, Jasa Veremalua
Ed Jenkins: “Fiji are definitely the team going into the Games everyone will be looking closely at. They are the recent world champs and have named a very strong squad with a lot of experience. All their players are dangerous and have the ability to change a game within a second. Obviously going in as favourites and the chance to grab Fiji's first ever medal at the Olympics, the pressure will be on.”