The Monaco Sevens tournament being played this weekend will be the final Olympic qualification tournament on the ‘road to Rio’ for 16 nations all vying for that final spot available at the pinnacle of all sports. The World Rugby Olympic repechage tournament will be held from June 18-19th at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, which for the teams involved is their ‘last stop on the Road to Rio’.
Monaco Sevens: the LOWDOWN
Samoa and Canada will be the leading favorite sides over this weekend, along with fellow core World Sevens Series teams Russia and Spain who maybe considered ‘underdogs’ but Last Word On Sports believe the biggest competition will come from Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and the ever-improving German sides.
The cross-pollination that has occurred with the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series introducing fans to the 16 best sides in the world has taken the sport to many more markets. The exposure of the game is now recognized [again] as an Olympic sport and Rugby Sevens may allow nations like Tonga or South Korea or Uruguay to reach their dreams of claiming a Gold medal. In these knockout type of tournaments, over three round-robin games ‘anything is possible’ and that may very well be seen this weekend. Teams with ‘nothing to lose’ can often reach great heights.
The 18,000 capacity stadium in Monaco will be in for some thrilling rugby over the next two days because it is all at stake and their is only one final Olympic position up for grabs [out of 12 Olympic places] The Royal Highness, Prince Albert of Monaco will be in attendance and that will create increased attention on this event. This will be; for some, the last stop on their ‘Road to Rio’.
Samoa Top Bet To Book Final Spot
Pool A (Samoa, Tonga, Zimbabwe, Ireland)
Head Coach Damian McGrath has opted to field the same side that performed well in the World Sevens Series and hasn’t been tempted to rope in their former sevens stars who are all playing overseas nowadays. Falemiga Selesele will lead the Paris Sevens champions (pictured) as they look to book that final spot and are happy to welcome back their mercurial playmaker in Phoenix Hunapo.
They will be banking heavily on their senior players like Belgium Tuatagaloa, Ed Fidow, Alex Samoa, Tila Mealoi, speedster Samoa Toloa and Siaosi Asofolau to lead to victory this weekend and their battle with South Seas Island neighbours Tonga, who will be the one to watch.
Manu Samoa squad: Alefosio Tapili, Faelemiga Selesele (c), Siaosi Asofolau, Savelio Ropati, Ed Fidow, Phoenix Hunapo, Alex Samoa, Tomasi Alosio Logotuli, Tila Mealoi, Samoa Toloa, Belgium Tuatagaloa, Alamada Motuga.
The Tongans have reinforced their attacking prowess by recruiting two experienced players to fill the void left by the loss of Jack Ram and Nafi Tuitavake who have both been called up by Tongan XV coach Toutai Kefu to be part of the Pacific Nations Cup.
Head Coach Taholo Anitoni has called up Cooper Vuna (pictured) a former Wallaby who currently plays for Worcester Warriors, who can bring ‘speed and strength’ to the side at midfield or at hooker and Atieli Pakalani, a former Waratahs ans Aussie Sevens squad member and they bring with them experience and the technical Know-how to take the Kingdom Island to the Rio Olympics.
— Worcester Warriors (@WorcsWarriors) June 16, 2016
Tongan Sevens squad: Viliame Siale, Salei Halaleva, Atelea Moa, Atieli Pakalani, Samisoni Ma’aka, Siale Talakai, Oleni Ngungatau, Semisi Tei, Fetuli Paea, Taliauli Sikuea, Atelea Okati, Cooper Vuna.
The African qualifiers runner up will be one of the two sides carrying the African continents hope of having a third team to the pinnacle of sports and will be banking on the experienced Manasah Sita to lead his young brigade to greater heights.
Zimbabwea Sevens squad: Biselele Tshamada, Manasah Sita, Boyd Rouse, Kelvin Maganje, Steven Hunduza, Shayne Makombe, Takudzwa Francisco, Tendai Dzongodzo, Hilton Mudariki, Chimence Tambawera, Kuda Chiwanza, Riaan O’Neill.
The future is green at the moment for Irish Rugby as their national side defeated South Africa last week, their U20s defeated New Zealand to earn a semi final spot and their sevens side won the Malmo Sevens last weekend and it will be even sweeter if they add the Monaco Sevens title to it and ultimately a spot at the Rio Olympics .
Irish Sevens squad: Harry McNally, Tom Daly, Barry Daly, Dan Coogin, Adam Byrne, Shane Layden, Steve Toal-Lennon, Mick McGrath, Ian Fritzpatrick, Alexander Wooton, William Tardis, Joshua Rowland.
Pool B (Canada, Germany, Uruguay, Sri Lanka)
Canada will be the top bets in Pool B but have strong competition from Germany and Uruguay. Justin Douglas and Ciaran Hearn are back in the mix and their strength and defensive skills will be a big boost for this Canadian side who had a disappointing World Sevens Series Season.
Canada Sevens squad: Phil Berna, Admir Cejvanovic, Justin Douglas, Mike Fuailefau, Lucas Hammond, Nathan Hirayama, Ciaran Hearn, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, John Moonlight, Conor Trainor, Adam Zaruba.
The Germans naturally thrive in team sports and judging by their performance at the Hong Kong Sevens it has become evident that the Germans will give all sides a run for their money and their stint at the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji has really given depth to their game as they now play a open but physical type of game which is synonymous with Pacific Island sides but with European flavor.
German Sevens squad: Clemen Von Grumbkow, Robert Hease, Robert Hittell, Bastian Hierrer, Sebastian Fronana, Fabian Heimpoel, Phil Szczesny, Ango Buckman, Tim Bimiale, Sam Rainger, Leon Hees, Oskar Calitz.
The South Americans will try to join their Brazil and Argentinian cousins in Rio but have lots on their plate and they have roped in the experienced Inaki Ormaechea to boost their chances.
Uruguay Sevens squad: Gabriel Carputo, Joaquin Dellacqua, Fernando Bascion, Mauro Daverio, Tomas Iniciarte, Sebastian Schroeder, Santiago Aredondo, Inaki Ormaechea, Lucas Duran, Felipe Etcheverry, Mateo Tortorella, Juan Manuel Cat.
Former English sevens player Matt Turner will be coaching the Asian Nation in Monaco and will be relying on his senior players like Sudarshana Muthuthari, playmaker Fazil Marija, speedster Kavindu Perera and Jason Dissanyaka to spearhead their campaign as they only have Japan representing the Asian Nations in Rio.
Sri Lankan squad: Sudarshana Muthuthari, Danuksha Ranjan, Fazil Marija, Roshan Weeraratne, Srinath Sooriyayabandara, Danush Dayan, Richard Dharmpala, Shiru Anthony, Kandari Ramyanayake, Kavindu Perera, Rochna Hettiarachchia, Jason Dissayanaka.
The Monaco Sevens is the last stop on the ‘Road to Rio’ for all 16 teams
Pool C (Russia, Chile, Morocco, Tunisia)
The Bears have recalled their senior players to lead them in Monaco over the weekend and coach Andriy Sorokin will be banking on Vladimir Ostronshko (pictured) Ilya Babaev, Denis Simplekevich and Vladislav Sozonov to give the Samoans and Canadians a run for their money in the two day tournament.
Russia Sevens squad: Vladimir Ostronshko, Mikhail Babaev, Ilya Babaev, Vladislav Lazarenko, Dmitry Perov, Vladislav Sozonov, Eduard Filatov, Raul Gaysin, Igor Gchinovskiy, Yury Gostynzhev, Denis Simplekevich, German Davydov.
Chile like Uruguay will be trying to come from behind the shadows of their continental giants the Los Pumas to tell the World that they also have what it takes and competing with best despite what the outcome would be is a stepping stone to have rugby recognized in a continent synonymous with football or soccer.
Chile Sevens squad: Felipe Brangier, Pedro Verschae, Bernado Moltedo, Juan Pablo Larenas, Martin Vallejos, Alfonso Rioja, Anton Petrowitsch, Marcelo Torrealba, Nicolas Herreros, Francisco Gonzalez, Francisco Metarze, Claudio Velasquez.
Morocco is an unknown quantity and with it they can spring surprises this weekend and every team should be weary of them as they will be going all out too to prove their worth.
Morocco Sevens squad: Mohammed Amire Abid, Mohamed Loukrassi, Nobil Jelti, Soheyl Jaoulat, Homeine Arabal, Adil Achahbar, Youness Houi, Karim Qadiri, Karim Hamdazza, Said Akarmondi, Chakri Hmidondi, Fahd Rugmbi Idirissi.
Tunisia rocked the world of sevens in 2005 when they reached the quarter finals at the World Cup in Hong Kong after spending three months learning their craft in Fiji and they will be using that as motivation to perform against the best in Monaco.
Tunisia Sevens squad: Abbes Kherfani, Houseem Khalfi, Salem Khafous, Saifeddine Gortoba, Mohamed Achref Dhif, Issan Werhari, Chemeseddine Khalifa, Ahmed Neghba, Chadi Jabri, Nejnuddine Khalifa, Dhiaeddine Garali, Oussama Hedi.
Pool D (Hong Kong, Spain, Mexico, South Korea)
The Gareth Barber coached side will be one of the underdogs this weekend and players like Max Woodward, Alex McQueen and Rowan Varty will have the task of carrying their hopes in their shoulders leading this young but capable brigade to green pastures.
Hong Kong Sevens squad: Max Woodward, Rowan Varty, Yiu Kam Shing, Jamie Hood, Alex McQueen, Tom McQueen, Lee Ka To, Calvin Hunter, Kwok Pak Nga, Jack Capon, Michael Coverdale, Chris Maize, Mark Wright.
Spain was in Fiji when Cyclone Winston struck and have learned to refine their game and with Hong Kong they will push Samoa and Canada all the way.
Spanish Sevens squad: Ignacio Martin Goenaga, Matias Tudela Perett, Inaki Villanueva, Fabio Feijjo Ugalde, Angel Lopez Vasquez, Francisco Hernandez Jimensz, Pablo Fontes De Castro, Cesar Sempere Pandilla, Igor Genna Sistiaga, Joan Losada, Pol Pla, Javier Carriori-Lourens.
Mexico might not have what it takes on paper but will be using this to develop their players and will carry that through to the next World Cup and Olympics.
Mexico Sevens squad: Pascal Nadand Del Castillo, Luis Herra Rabelcava, Roberto Calderon Guillermo, Alejandro Chavez Cervantes, Miguel Cerner, Christian Heammy Morris, Luis Arrendondo, Fharid Samano, Gonzalo Ponce, Juan Pablo Andrande, Ari Gold, Luis Angel Galindo.
They were ones the giants of sevens rugby in Asia taking teams to task at the Hong Kong Sevens and coach John Walters will be trying to bring back those glory days here in Monaco and most of all try to reignite the passion among the people South Korea to send their kids to learn and play rugby as the sport continues to make in-roads in Asia.
South Korea Sevens squad: Seonga Kim, Jeonghin Jang, Seong Min Jang, Hyun Soo Kim, Sangjong Hong, Seong Bae Lee, Jaebok Lee, Jimycong Oh, Sing Soo Kim, Jeong Jeong, Dong-Loon Han.
Monaco Sevens: The Stage is Set
The stage is set, all teams know what is at stake and the people of Monaco will be witnessing 16 teams who will ‘move heaven and earth’ this weekend to earn that final spot to Rio. While Samoa and Canada are the clear favorites, you cannot count out Russia, Hong Kong, Tonga, Spain, Ireland and even the ever improving Germans.
Follow all ‘the Lowdown’ of the Monaco Sevens here on Last Word On Sports.
“Main photo credit”