RUGBY SEVENS: History will be made in Rio when Rugby Sevens makes its Olympic debut at Deodoro Stadium.
After New Zealand won the opening three women’s World Series, Australia dominated the 2015/16 season to claim their first world title and now have their eyes on Rio gold.
The Rio 2016 competition features three groups of four teams with the top two teams, and the two best third ranked sides, progressing to the quarter-finals. From there the knockout phase of the competition begins before the medals will eventually be decided.
The Aussies have been drawn alongside USA, Fiji and Colombia and if they go on and win a historic gold medal in Rio they will likely have to face the likes of New Zealand and Canada in the later rounds.
Alicia Quirk has long been one of Australia’s finest players and will no doubt be a crucial part of the team if they are to reach their golden goal in Rio. She gives us her thoughts on each team that stands in the way of Australia claiming an Olympic medal.
2015/16 World Series ranking: 6th
Recent results vs Australia: USA 5-22 Australia (Atlanta Sevens), USA 0-34 Australia (Sao Paulo Sevens)
Star players: Jillion Potter, Lauren Doyle, Victoria Folayan
Player quote: “The Americans are always strong and they are very good athletes, and I think they will be even more so at an Olympic Games. As always, against the USA we’ll have put plan in place and we’ll go out to have a lot of fun.”
2015/16 World Series ranking: 8th
Recent results vs Australia: Fiji 0-34 Australia (Clermont-Ferrand Sevens), Fiji 5-22 Australia (Atlanta Sevens), Fiji 0-10 Australia (Sao Paulo Sevens), Fiji 17-26 Australia (Sao Paulo Sevens)
Star players: Ana Roqica, Rusila Nagasau, Litia Naiqato
Player quote: “Even though we have always had good results against Fiji, they have always been great tussles with them. They play an exciting brand of rugby and are always improving so we’ll have to switched on when we play them.”
2015/16 World Series ranking: 14th (Only competed in one event)
Recent results vs Australia: Colombia 0-34 Australia (Atlanta Sevens),
Star players: Nathalie Marchino, Alejandra Betancur
Player quote: “We’ve played Colombia once before on the World Series and had quite a convincing win, but you never know what to expect from teams you don’t play too often. We’re expecting them to be very physical and play more of a XVs style of game. We’ve done our homework on them though and we’ll be implementing our strategies to give us the best possible chance of a positive result.”
Outside of the pool the Aussies will face the toughest challenge from the likes of New Zealand and Canada.
2015/16 World Series ranking: 2nd
Recent results vs Australia: New Zealand 5-14 Australia (Clermont-Ferrand Sevens), New Zealand 19-24 Australia (Atlanta Sevens), New Zealand 12-15 Australia (Dubai Sevens)
Star players: Portia Woodman, Kayla McAlister, Tyla Nathan-Wong
Player quote: “New Zealand have been a dominant team in rugby sevens now for over three years and we’re expecting them to be just that in Rio. They have a really strong and experienced side, very skilful, very steppy and fast. All the games we have played against them previously, we’ll just implement the same game plan and hope to get over the top of them again.”
2015/16 World Series ranking: 3rd
Recent results vs Australia: Canada 29-19 Australia (Clermont-Ferrand Sevens), Canada 14-26 Australia (Atlanta Sevens), Canada 0-29 Australia (Sao Paulo Sevens), Canada 14-29 Australia (Sao Paulo Sevens)
Star players: Ghislaine Landry, Jen Kish, Karen Paquin
Player quote: “We lost to the Canadians the last time we played them so we’ve done a fair bit of homework since then. We know that they are very physical – hard, strong runners and they have athletes that like to spread the ball really wide.”
Matt Bartolo/Steve Stammers