18/04/2024

The Australia female rugby sevens team - reigning gold medallists (Photo - Rugby Australia)

Medals will again be hotly contested in the second instalment of Rugby Sevens at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, can the Australian women win again?

Rugby Sevens will have two events at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Despite being one of the world’s more popular sports, rugby has barely been seen at the Olympic level. After the original 15-a-side rugby union was discontinued way back in 1924, the rugby sevens format was introduced in Rio 2016.

In the inaugural rugby sevens tournament at the most recent Olympics, Fiji and Australia were the gold medal sides for the male and female events respectively.

Tokyo 2020 changes – a female Super Saturday

When rugby was once again brought back into the Olympic fold following nearly a century of isolation, the female competition was run first before the male side was played in the latter stages of the two-week program.

But in 2020, the female teams get to compete after the men, receiving a wonderful opportunity to finish the medal games on a ‘Super Saturday’.

The reversal sees the men play out for gold from July 27 to 29, while the female side of the draw goes from July 30 to August 1. The Saturday evening, when the female competition enters the medal session, coincides with a peak time of high-tension medal events for many competitions.

The games will be split into two sessions per day – a morning and an afternoon flurry of games means the pool stage and knock out games can be completed efficiently.

Why Rugby Sevens?

There are numerous formats of rugby, with the league and union versions being much more globally popular than the relatively recent sevens competition. But the shorter game time, lower physicality and higher scoring contests makes Sevens the ideal choice for a rugby format in a condensed Olympic schedule.

Traditionally, union and league players need at least a couple of days to recover between 80-minute matches. But the sevens format reduces the impact of fatigue – games have only seven-minute halves and a two-minute halftime break, meaning they are over in under 20-minutes. With only five substitutions allowed per team per game, matches are done quickly and scoring is easy to manufacture with the wide-open spaces available on the field.

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Why to watch

To put it simply, rugby sevens is the most exciting and fast-paced version of rugby and is easy to sit down and watch in short bursts.

With only seven players per team allowed on the field at a time, the wide expanses of open grass really shows off the speed and athleticism of players. Passing to open up the play becomes easier, with long curling assists highlighting the skill that each versatile team member must possess in the game.

Australia’s Emma Tonegato scores in the gold medal match at Rio 2016 (Photo – Rugby Australia)

For Australian fans, they can also expect both sides will vie for medals in both the male and female tournaments. In 2016, the men’s team failed to reach the knock out stages, but have had nearly five years of preparing to do better when it comes down to the crunch at Tokyo.

The female side will travel to Tokyo looking to defend their gold medal crown, which they won in dramatic fashion in Rio. Despite trailing in the early stages of the gold medal match against the daunting New Zealand side, the Aussies rallied to win a nail-biting contest 24-17. If they can show similar pluck in Tokyo, they should be right up there again as one of the favourites to win gold.

Rugby Sevens Medal Favourites

On the men’s side of the draw, it’s hard to look past New Zealand. They entered Rio in 2016 as favourites due to their strong start to the rugby sevens scene, only to fail in the group stages and miss out on a medal entirely. Now, as current World Champions in Rugby Sevens, they will be baying for redemption in Tokyo.

Reigning champions Fiji also loom as a big prospect due to their size and speed across their squad, while Great Britain will once again post a skilful collective of players ready to challenge. Expect Australia, South Africa and Japan to be fighting for a medal too, in what should be a tightly contested tournament.

On the female side, Australia will once again be one of the teams to beat as they seek to make it back-to-back gold medals. New Zealand, after leaving Rio heartbroken with silver medals, should be expecting to return to the final match. Similarly, Great Britain, South Africa and Canada all boast claims to be in medal contention, making it an interesting competition for many nations.

As seen often in Rio, Fiji streaking away for a try (Photo – Olympics)

The Draw

The groups for the first stages of the tournaments have been released recently, providing many exciting matchups early on in each competition.

Men

Group AGroup BGroup C
New ZealandFijiSouth Africa
AustraliaGreat BritainUnited States
ArgentinaCanadaKenya
South KoreaJapanIreland

Women

Group AGroup BGroup C
Great BritainFranceAustralia
New ZealandCanadaChina
RussiaBrazilUnited States
KenyaFijiJapan

Australian Squads

There’s plenty of turnover between 2016 to now, with the 12-player squads being released on the weekend.

Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Squad

The women’s squad has retained the core group of the Olympic Gold Medal winning squad and have ushered in seven Olympic debutants to complete the 12-member squad.

NameOlympics
Shannon Parry (c)Rio 2016 (Gold)
Sharni Williams (c)Rio 2016 (Gold)
Emma TonegatoRio 2016 (Gold)
Evania PeliteRio 2016 (Gold)
Charlotte CaslickRio 2016 (Gold)
Demi HayesDebut
Dominique Du ToitDebut
Sariah PakiDebut
Faith NathanDebut
Madison AshbyDebut
Maddison LeviDebut
Tia HindsDebut

The Rugby Sevens Women’s competition will take place from 29-31 July at the Tokyo Olympics.

Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad

The male squad has undergone a complete overhaul after the disappointment in 2016. Only skipper Nick Malouf and Henry Hutchison will return to the Olympic stage, with 10 newcomers including former Wallaby Samu Kerevi making their Olympic debut.

NameOlympic Games
Lachlan AndersonDebut
Josh CowardDebut
Henry Hutchison2nd (2016)
Samu KereviDebut
Maurice LongbottomDebut
Nick Malouf (c)2nd (2016)
Lachlan MillerDebut
Henry PatersonDebut
Dylan PietschDebut
Joe PincusDebut
Dietrich RoacheDebut
Josh TurnerDebut

The Men’s Rugby Sevens competition will commence on 26 July.

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