Tokyo Olympic Games Preview: Women

Wed, 28/07/2021, 01:12 am
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby
Charlotte Caslick takes on Portia Woodman during the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens
Charlotte Caslick takes on Portia Woodman during the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic women’s tournament is set to begin, in the first major competition in nearly 18 months.

Thirty-four matches will be played over three days (July 29-31) 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: 2nd / Tokyo 2020 seeding: 1st

After their shock defeat in the gold medal match at Rio 2016, the Black Ferns 7s have been nothing short of dominant, winning 18 of 24 major tournaments.

The six-time World Series champions, won five of the past six tournaments, with only two lost matches during the 2020 season, falling to the United States in the Cup Semi-final in Glendale, and a defeat to France during pool play in Dubai.

The Black Ferns 7s lead all squads with seven returning Olympians, including their captain and Team New Zealand Flag bearer Sarah Hirini, who has been with the team since day one.

The squad also features three Player of the Year recipients, Michaela Blyde (2017, 2018), Ruby Tui (2019) and Portia Woodman (2015), who was also named Women’s Player of the Decade last year.

Eleven of their squad are gold medallists from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, including Risi Pouri-Lane, who also captained the New Zealand team to Youth Olympic gold later that year.

New Zealand were already favourites heading into Tokyo, but after their dominating display at the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens, where they outscored their opponents by 162 points, it would take a monumental effort to deny them gold.

Squad

Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier*, Gayle Broughton*, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluhler*, Sarah Hirini* (c), Shiray Kaka, Risi Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui*, Tyla Nathan-Wong*, Portia Woodman*

* Rio 2016 Olympian

Coach: Allan Bunting (NZL), Cory Sweeny (NZL)

 

Remaining Teams

Russian Olympic Committee: Qualified for their first Olympic Games through the repechage, the Russian team finished 2020 sixth overall, with Elena Zdrokova and Kristina Seredina scoring the most points. Thirty-year-old Baizat Khamidova, is the most experienced in the squad, becoming the first Russian to play 30 World Series tournaments and score 100 tries.

Great Britain: A fourth-place finish in Rio, will see Team GB’s three returning Olympians keen to land on the podium. Abbie Brown will captain the side, alongside Megan Jones who was a travelling reserve five years ago. England’s leading points scorer in 2020, Deborah Fleming, joins the side, as well as 2014 Rugby World Cup winner Alex Matthews.

Kenya: With only one win in 2016, the Lionesses will be hoping to secure a few more in Tokyo. Captain Philadelphia Olando is one of three returning Olympians, and not having played in 2020, new talent such as Stella Wafula, Christabel Lindo, Diana Awino and Vivian Akumu will be given opportunity to shine.

 


Pool B

Fiji

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

The Fijiana 7s made the quarterfinals five years ago in Rio and will be hoping to do the same again in Tokyo.

After having their best season following the Rio Olympics, Fiji dropped down the rankings, a resurgent 2020 saw them finish seventh, including winning the plate during the season’s last tournament in Sydney.

Rio Olympian Rusila Nagasau has played the most World Series matches of any Fijiana player and will captain the side after leading the Fijian Olympic Team at the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo.

Rejieli Daveua, the only other Olympian, gives the side added experience and was part of the team that defeated Australia in the gold medal match at the 2019 Pacific Games.

Plenty of points are expected to come from Ana Maria Naimasi. The former international netball and cricketer sits third all-time in tries scored by a Fijiana player.

Fiji put on the world on notice at last month’s 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens when they shocked host nation Australia, to record a historic victory. After beating the world’s second-best team, anything is possible.

Squad

Lavena Cavuru, Rejieli Daveua*, Sesenieli Donu, Laisana Likuceva, Rusila Nagasau* (c), Ana Maria Naimasi, Aloesi Nakoci, Roela Radiniyavuna, Viniana Riwai, Vasiti Solikoviti, Tokasa Seniyasi, Reapi Uluinasau

* Rio 2016 Olympian

Coach: Saiasi Fuli (FIJ)

Remaining Teams

Canada: The bronze medallists from Rio return to Tokyo as the second seed, after third-place finishes the past two seasons. Six Olympians were named in the squad, which is led by Ghislaine Landry, the series all-time leading points scorer with 1,356. Charity Williams also returns, hoping to add a gold medal to her Youth Olympic silver (2014) and Olympic bronze (2016).

France: Though finishing the 2020 World Series fourth, France had to do it the hard way, qualifying for their second Olympics through the repechage. Four Rio Olympians return for the French, including their captain Fanny Horta and their coach David Courteix. Séraphine Okemba and Chloé Jacquet were rewarded for their outstanding performances in the repechage, as Okemba top-scored with 10 tries.

Brazil: The 2016 hosts return after finishing ninth in Rio. As Yaras, who have won the South American Sevens 16 straight years, have four Olympians in their squad including captain Raquel Kochhann. One of the fastest women on the series, and Brazil’s top scorer, Thalia Costa will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Pool C

Australia

Rio 2016: 1st / Tokyo 2020 seeding: 3rd

Australia will always be known as the first Olympic rugby sevens gold medallists, after their victory against New Zealand in Rio.

Since then, they have mostly finished second behind arch-rivals New Zealand, winning their last tournament in 2018 (Sydney).

Five Olympians return, looking to defend their gold medal, once again led by co-captains Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams.

The 2016 Player of the Year Charlotte Caslick will also return, with two-time Dream Team member needing to step in the absence of Australia’s all-time leading try scorer Ellia Green.

Debutants Tia Hinds and Maddison Levi have been rewarded by John Manenti for their exceptional play with the Oceania 7’s team at the 2021 PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens, with a call up to the national side.

Regarded as the second-best team in the world, the Aussie women showed some venerability last month in Townsville, especially after their shock loss to Fiji, and with the rise of Canada and the USA, the defending gold medallists will have their work cut out for them.

Squad

Madison Ashby, Charlotte Caslick*, Demi Hayes, Tia Hinds, Maddison Levi, Faith Nathan, Sariah Paki, Shannon Parry* (c), Evania Pelite*, Dominique du Toit, Emma Tonegato*, Sharni Williams* (c)

* Rio 2016 Olympian

Coach: John Manenti (AUS)

Remaining Teams

United States: Finished fifth during their Rio 2016 campaign, which included a 12-all draw with Australia in pool play. Two Olympians return for Tokyo, with former ice hockey player Alev Kelter backing up after a five-try performance in Rio. The US was one of two teams to beat New Zealand in 2020, enroute to a home win in Glendale.

China: Qualified for their first Olympics under Sean Horan, who coached New Zealand to a silver medal in Rio. Chen Keyi led the team in scoring with nine tries during the qualifying tournament. Now led by Brit Euan Mackintosh, he has included three players – Yan Meiling, Yang Feifei and Liu Xiaoqian – who helped China win bronze at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing.

Japan: The host nation returns for their second Olympics after losing the ninth-place final to 2016 hosts Brazil. Olympians Mayu Shimizu and Bativakalolo Raichelmiyo will co-captain the side, which includes a number of younger players, like 19-year-old Rinka Matsuda.

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 Friday 30 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 (31 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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