Tokyo Olympic Games Preview: Men

Sat, 24/07/2021, 06:00 pm
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic men’s tournament is set to begin, in the first major competition in over 16 months.

Thirty-four matches will be played over three days (July 26-28) at the Tokyo Stadium, which hosted nine matches at Rugby World Cup 2019.

Full schedule can be found here.

Format

The 12 participating teams have been divided into three pools, with seeding based on World Rugby Sevens Series points accumulated across the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.

The top two each from each group progressing to the knock-out stage, where they will be joined in the quarterfinals by the top two third-placed teams.

The remaining four teams will compete in classification matches to determine the final rankings.

Pool A

New Zealand

Rio 2016: 5th / Tokyo 2020 seeding: 1st

The most successful team in sevens history will be hoping to avenge their disappointing results from five years ago.

The 13-time World Series champions have been dominant since Rio, winning gold at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and claimed their first series win in six years in 2020.

Five players return for their second Olympic Games, including co-captain Tim Mikkelson, who sits third all-time on the World Series try scoring list.

Five-time World Series champion Scott Curry also leads the side, which includes nine players from their 2018 Commonwealth Games victory against Fiji.

Waikato Chiefs outside back Etene Nanai-Seturo is the youngest player in a very experienced squad, but the 21-year-old already has 61 World Series matches to go with his Commonwealth gold.

The All Blacks 7s will enter Tokyo 2020 has one of the medal favourites, but will be considered second behind Fiji, after losing to the island nation twice at the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens last month.

Squad

Tim Mikkelson* (c), Scott Curry* (c), Dylan Collier, Tone Ng Shiu, Sam Dickson*, Andrew Knewstubb, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Sione Molia, Kurt Baker, Joe Webber*, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Regan Ware*

* Rio 2016 Olympian

Coach: Clark Laidlaw (GBR)

 

Australia

Rio 2016: 8th / Tokyo 2020 seeding: 6th

After leading the Australian women to gold in Rio, Tim Walsh returns to the Olympics hoping to replicate his success with the men.

The Aussie 7s have been consistent performers since Rio and have made the Cup Final five-times, including a win in Sydney (2018) and a runner-up finish to New Zealand at the last World Series tournament in Vancouver in March 2020.

Three Rio Olympians make up Walsh’s squad, with Lewis Holland hoping for a better experience after a hamstring injury in the opening match ended his Olympic debut in Rio.

Nick Malouf continues as captain, with the 2020 Shawn Mackay Award winner, for Best Australian Player, having played more than 200 matches since debuting in 2012.

However, all the attention will be focused to 15s covert Samu Kerervi. The former Wallaby and Rugby World Cup player returned from a two-year stint in Japan’s Top League and impressed Walsh enough at the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens, to give the Fiji-born centre a shot at Tokyo 2020.

Given their injury concerns, the Aussies played well against New Zealand and Fiji at the Oceania Sevens last month, despite losing all four matches, and will be considered one of the dark horses this week.

Squad

Lachlan Anderson, Josh Coward, Henry Hutchison*, Samu Kerevi, Maurice Longbottom, Nick Malouf* (c), Lachie Miller, Henry Paterson, Dylan Pietsch, Joe Pincus, Dietrich Roache, Josh Turner, Lewis Holland*

* Rio 2016 Olympian

Coach: Tim Walsh (AUS)

Remaining Teams

Argentina: Entering Tokyo seeded seventh, Los Pumas Sevens will be extremely competitive. Four players return from the 2016 side that finished sixth, losing in the extra-time to eventual silver medallists Great Britain. Lucio Cinti, Ignacio Mendy and Marcos Moneta will be looking to add Olympic gold to the one they won at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in 2018.

Korea: Lowest seeded nation competing, the Koreans qualified for their first Olympics after Jang Seongmin ran the length of the field to score during sudden death extra-time against Hong Kong in the Asian qualifier. Former University of Berkeley student Andre Jin will definitely stand out. The US-born player stands at 1.95m tall.

Pool B

Fiji

Rio 2016: 1st / Tokyo 2020 seeding: 2nd

History was made five years ago, when the Fijian 7’s won gold, the first Olympic medal for the proud rugby nation.

Since Rio, the Fiji 7s have won more tournaments that anyone else with 12 World Series wins, to go along with the 2019 series title.

Only one Olympic gold medallist returns in Gareth Baber’s squad, with Player of the Decade, Jerry Tuwai, leading the squad in their repeat attempt.

Aminiasi Tuimaba and Napolioni Bolaca lead the new talent coming through, both making the Dream Team within their first two seasons. Bolaca even led the series in points scored in 2020.

After impressing in their debut at the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens last month, Baber has rewarded Iosefo Masi and Jiuta Wainiqolo with international debuts at Tokyo.

Fiji’s dominant performance at the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens in Townsville has elevated them to Olympic favourites. Going through the tournament undefeated, the team outscored their opponents 148 to 64.

Squad

Vilimoni Botitu, Napolioni Bolaca, Mele Derenalagi, Iosefo Masi, Waisea Nacuqu, Kalione Nasoko, Semi Radradra, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Asaeli Tuivuaka, Jerry Tuwai* (c), Josua Vakuranabili, Jiuta Wainiqolo

* Rio 2016 Olympian

Coach: Gareth Baber (GBR)

Remaining Teams

Great Britain: The might of England, Scotland and Wales combine once again, looking to go one better in Tokyo after winning silver in Rio. Three Olympians return including captain Tom Mitchell who also captained the side five years ago. The squad will be bolstered by the World Series all-time leading try scorer Dan Norton, who has crossed the line 354 times.

Canada: Making their Olympic debut, the Canadians are led by their most capped player and leading points scorer, Nathan Hirayama, who has Japanese heritage. Harry Jones also co-captains the side, while Kiwi Henry Paul calls the shots from the sideline. The Canadians will be looking to build upon their bronze medal finish in Vancouver (2020), after winning the Singapore Sevens in 2017.

Japan: The host nation shocked the world five years ago, defeating New Zealand 14-12 in pool play, before losing to South Africa in the bronze medal match. Only two players return in 2021, Fiji-born Kameli Raravou Latianara Soejima and Lote Tuqiri, with young players, such as Kippei Ishida, rewarded after winning Youth Olympic bronze in 2018.

Pool C

South Africa: The Rio 2016 bronze medallists return to the Olympic scene after finishing second during the 2020 season. Justin Geduld is the only Olympian to return, with Branco du Preez and Chris Dry finally making the Olympic debut after being travelling reserves in Rio. Siviwe Soyizwapi will captain a Blitzbok side looking improve its medal colour.

United States: Missing the quarterfinals in Rio, the Eagles Sevens enter Tokyo as the fourth seeded team, thanks to their second-place finish during the 2018/19 World Series. Six Rio Olympian return, including USA Sevens most capped player, Folau Niua, who returns from a two-year hiatus after breaking his leg. Two-time Player of the Year Perry Baker also returns from a broken leg, and Rio 2016 leading try scorer, Carlin Isles is also included in the squad.

Kenya: After finishing 11th in Rio, the Shujaa Sevens will be looking to climb up the standings. Bolstered by three returning Olympians, including captain Andrew Amonde, the squad will rely heavily on stalwart Collins Injera, who since making his debut in 2007, has scored 279 World Series tries, placing him second on the all-time list.

Ireland: Earning the last qualifying spot at the Olympic Repechage last month, Ireland continues their meteoric rise after only one year on the World Series. Last year’s leading try scorer, Jordan Conroy, headlines the team that includes seasoned campaigners such as captain Billy Dardis and Harry McNulty. Adam Leavy, brother of Ireland 15s international Dan, was also named in the squad.

Knockout Stage

The top two teams from each pool, as well as the two best third place teams will contest the quarterfinals during the evening session on Tuesday 27 July, with the following match ups.

QF1 - 1st Pool A v 2nd Best 3rd

QF2 - 2nd Pool B v 2nd Pool C

QF3 - 1st Pool C v 2nd Pool A

QF4 - 1st Pool B v Best 3rd

The winners will contest the semifinals during the morning session on Day 3 (28 July), with the medal matches for the semifinalists in the evening.

SF1 - Winner QF1 v Winner QF2

SF2 - Winner QF3 v Winner QF4

Bronze - Loser SF1 v Loser SF2

Gold - Winner SF1 v Winner SF2

Note: Classification matches for final standings will be contested concurrently, using the same matchups.

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