#RoadToRio reaches final straight for 16 men’s rugby sevens teams
Monaco’s iconic Stade Louis II will provide a fitting stage as the final qualification place for the men’s rugby sevens event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is determined this weekend. With rugby returning to the Olympic stage for the first time in 92 years, 16 teams will compete to claim the 12th and final available place at the Games. The final repechage marks the end of a global qualification process that has crossed six regions over a two-year period. It has been compelling and, at times, dramatic with the competition for places fierce as the Olympic Games is the pinnacle of the sevens game. This weekend promises to be no different as years of preparation come down to just two days of competition where Olympic hopes will be realised or dashed.
HSBC Paris Sevens winners Samoa are top seeds and start as favourites alongside fellow HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series core teams Canada and Russia. The Samoans have a tough draw, facing Zimbabwe, Tonga and Ireland in Pool A. They also have the honour of kicking off the first-ever rugby sevens match in Stade Louis II when they face Tonga in an all-Pacific Islands affair at 11:00 local time on Saturday. They are relishing the prospect of representing their nation at the Olympic Games and captain Faalemiga Selesele believes that the final shoot-out in Monaco will bring the best out of his Samoan side and all teams competing this weekend.”We are here to do our nation and ourselves proud. We have one chance. The opposition will be tough, but we are ready,” said Selesele.
Canada and Russia, who are the second and third seeds respectively and the only other HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series core teams in the event, arrive in Monaco in determined mood. The Canadians are hoping to join their women’s team in qualifying for Rio and face Germany, Uruguay and Sri Lanka in Pool B. Russia will play Chile, Morocco and Tunisia in Pool C, while fourth seeds Hong Kong take on Spain, Mexico and South Korea in Pool D.
Canada captain John Moonlight said: “We will be setting-out to play the best sevens rugby we possibly can and hopefully end up where we want to be at the end of the weekend.
“We have to look out for all these teams as sevens is so competitive now. Sri Lanka pushed Fiji in Hong Kong, so you really have to be on top of your game.
“Canada is a team sport nation when it comes to the Olympics, and the support that we have received back home has been unbelievable and hopefully we can give them the result they want.”
An exciting global qualification process has proven to be a reflection of the excitement and interest building throughout the global rugby family and a strong indication of the sheer level of competitiveness in global sevens.
“The stage is set for what promises to be a truly compelling and unmissable Monaco sevens,” said World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset, who led World Rugby’s bid for Olympic re-inclusion.
“Rarely has so much been on the line. It means so much to these teams to qualify for Rio 2016, for their players to be Olympians and make history as rugby returns to the Games after 92 years.”
With medals being awarded to mirror the Olympic events, the Monaco Sevens tournament will also feature a different format to that seen on the series for the positional matches on day two. The teams that finish first and second in their pools will play for the Championship Cup and a place at Rio 2016. The winner of the Championship Cup final will also receive gold medals, the runner-up will receive silver medals and the winner of the third place match will win the bronze. The teams that come third and fourth in their pools will play for the Challenge Trophy.