With frantic 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification tournaments underway across World Rugby, the nations and regional tournaments completed and in the planning, have promoted diversity in Rugby Sevens.
By diversity, it refers to both the Tier of the country competing (position within World Rugby), but also in the competition between regions. From Asia to Africa, every country wishes very much to compete at an Olympic Games. When rugby was reintroduced to the Summer Olympics program, the stage opened for both the heavyweights – the likes of New Zealand, Fiji, and England – right through to rugby sevens lightweights, like South Korea and Brazil.
As such, the regional contest, in South America for instance, has developed the competition and raised the levels of sides like Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, as well as focused the attention of Argentina, on their own Olympic ideals.
— Los Pumas 7s (@lospumas7arg) June 30, 2019
Competing on an even-par would be an overstatement. Australia playing against Fijiana, Kenya (see main photo) meeting Ireland, the variety in levels of sevens influence and in rugby desire means the competition will be both impassioned and calculated. Practiced and naturally talented, all traits that will promote the team’s opportunity in the summer Olympics next year.
When listing the number of men’s and women’s teams it demonstrates how the qualification process is building new expectations and goals for many International teams.
The @Olympics will be Korea's first major global tournament since RWC Sevens 2005
MEN: 🇦🇷 🇦🇺 🇨🇦 🇫🇯 🇬🇧 🇯🇵 🇰🇪 🇳🇿 🇿🇦 🇺🇸 🇰🇷
WOMEN: 🇦🇺 🇧🇷 🇨🇦 🇨🇳 🇫🇯 🇬🇧 🇯🇵 🇰🇪 🇳🇿 🇺🇸
— Karen Bond (@bondkaren76) November 24, 2019
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games rugby sevens competition will take place from July 27 to August 1, and is anticipated to be a major attraction of the Games following Japan’s hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification promotes diversity in Rugby Sevens
In recent weeks, many nations have officially been recognized as tournament winners, and have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Congratulations must go to each, as the accomplishment of that stage of their pathway to the Games.
The most recent success was made by South Korea. They were successful at the Asia Rugby Olympic qualifier. Their victory was a heartbreaking loss for Hong Kong, but elation for the hosts and they will now join Japan 2020 event. It is a peak for Asian rugby, as they usually sit well down in the rugby standings.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 24, 2019
Yet with the Olympics as a ‘carrot’ the emphasis, the majority of World Rugby competing sides have invested huge resources into the process.
For Korea, they now sit beside the rugby-powers. A diversity that is going to bring rewards unforeseen by the amatuer inventers of the sport.
The top-ranked sides may have an advantage but, the diversity of nations and of the regional qualifying tournaments indicates how popular the sport now is.
Meet the Qualified teams – Men
Of the 12 teams that will compete in Japan, four sides qualified through their placing of the last World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series. Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, and the USA men will all feel comfortable with their accomplishments.
For the balance, they needed to make the Tokyo Olympics qualification process successful, rather than have to meet in a global repechage tournament, to be held in June, 2020. The final team will be known at that time, and join hosts Japan and the following nations:
England (will compete as Great Britain)
Japan (host nation)
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) November 9, 2019
Meet the Qualified teams – Women
Like the men, the top four teams from the women’s World Series all secured a place in Japan. New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and Australia can now focus on their 2019/20 Sevens Series, before focusing on the Olympics.
Of note, due to both the US and Canadian team’s qualifying, the North American place has been reserved, so that in the final Olympic Rugby Sevens repechage tournament in June 2020, two qualification places will be available.
England (will compete as Great Britain)
Kenya (South Africa declined participating, due to SARFU policy)
— Asia Rugby (@asiarugby) November 13, 2019
Japan hosting the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup means a lot to the development and popularity of the game in Asia, according to the General Manager of Asia Rugby, Ross Mitchell. Rugby has been gaining popularity in the continent since 2008 when China hosted the games. Soon after, the sport was reintroduced to the Summer games program in 2016.
This Olympic tournament, with two Asian nations competing in 2020, it will hopefully amplify that trend. Growth in the game, and in women’s sport across developing nations is a benefit to World Rugby and the profile of rugby sevens.
The final place for the men and the last two places for women’s teams will be decided at the Olympic repechage tournament, to be held in Bogota, Colombia.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images