In another exciting milestone on the road to rugby sevens’ Olympic Games debut, the pools have been announced for the 12-team men’s and women’s events at Rio 2016.
The announcement was made on Tuesday in the host city following last Sunday’s women’s global repechage tournament which delivered the final qualifier for what will be the first time in 92 years that rugby has featured on sport’s biggest stage.
Pool A in the women’s event, which runs from 6-8 August at Deodoro Olympic Park, features number-one seed and reigning HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series champions Australia, along with USA, Fiji and Colombia.
Spain, who beat Russia in the dramatic final of the recent repechage in Dublin, will realise their Olympic dream against New Zealand, France and Kenya in Pool B while the pick of the groups could well be Pool C, which includes the much-fancied Canada and Great Britain teams as well as home favourites Brazil and Japan.
In the men’s competition (9-11 August at the same venue), favourites Fiji have been drawn in Pool A with defending Olympic champions USA, as well as South American rivals Argentina and Brazil. Pool B is another tough group, which includes South Africa, Australia, France and Spain, while it doesn’t get any less competitive in Pool C as New Zealand will play Great Britain, Kenya and Japan.
In both competitions, the top two teams from each pool, plus the two best third-placed sides, progress to the quarter-finals.
The match schedule will be announced in due course.
Women’s – 6-8 August (seeding in brackets)
Pool A: Australia (one), USA (six), Fiji (seven), Colombia (12)
Pool B: New Zealand (two), France (five), Spain (eight), Kenya (11)
Pool C: Canada (three), Great Britain (four), Brazil (nine), Japan (10)
Men’s – 9-11 August (seeding in brackets)
Pool A: Fiji (one), USA (six), Argentina (seven), Brazil (12)
Pool B: South Africa (two), Australia (five), France (eight), Spain (11)
Pool C: New Zealand (three), Great Britain (four), Kenya (nine), Japan (10)
Speaking at the draw, World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Today’s announcement represents another exciting milestone on rugby sevens’ road to Rio 2016. Confirmation of the pools bring the competitions to life and add a further injection of excitement for teams and fans alike.
“We were determined to return rugby to the Olympic Games because we knew inclusion would be game-changing for our sport. We knew it would open the door to reach and inspire new participants and fans worldwide and enable our top men’s and women’s players to realise their dreams of becoming Olympians, competing alongside the greatest athletes in the world. That dream is now very much a reality and we are excited and honoured to be back on sport’s greatest stage.”
Incoming Chairman Bill Beaumont, who begins his mandate on 1 July, said: “Our top men’s and women’s players are excited about becoming Olympians and representing their nation and our sport at the Olympic Games.
“I anticipate that it will be one of the highlights of Rio 2016 as we showcase this great sport to a new audience of hundreds of millions around the world and inspire the next generation to get into rugby. It’s an exciting time to be involved in rugby and I know that all our member unions are ready to make the most of this opportunity as we continue to grow the game across the globe.
“As we rapidly approach one month to go, we are anticipating very special and successful rugby sevens events that showcase the very best of our dynamic sport and its character-building values.”
As agreed by World Rugby Council at its November 2015 meeting, the seedings for the men’s and women’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games rugby sevens competitions were determined by the combined HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series points gained by teams over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
The four teams that qualified directly to the Olympic Games from the 2014-15 series were guaranteed to be included in the top four seeded positions with positions one to four being determined by each team’s combined series points over the two seasons. These teams are Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Great Britain for the men’s competition and Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain for the women’s competition. Great Britain’s seedings in both competitions were determined by the series points gained by England in the respective men’s and women’s series over the two seasons.
The seedings for teams which were not core teams in either series were determined by World Rugby based on an analysis of their performances in series tournaments over the two seasons and other World Rugby tournaments such as the respective men’s and women’s series qualification tournaments.