In less than 2 weeks, the biggest sporting show on earth kicks off and the much anticipated debutante – Rugby Sevens – will be one of the first to thrill the massive local and global audience on day 1 from Deodoro Stadium when the women’s competition begins.
There are 12 teams across 3 pools and the heavyweights are the Australians, the Kiwis and the Canadians but there is no dismissing the potential of the rest to cause an upset.
“All the teams have their strengths and their styles but you also have to expect the unexpected,” said Tim Walsh, the coach of the Australian team knowing that the beauty of Sevens rugby is its unpredictability over just 14 minutes of play.
“Fiji definitely, I think, on their day can beat anyone: for all their passing and offloads – when they get their tail up they’re hard to stop,” Walsh said.
The Fijiana captain is Ana Maria Roqica, a softly spoken woman with an unassuming presence but her skills on the field and quality as a leader have brought her a long way and she is ready to lead her team up onto the podium in Rio.
Fijiana will have a big job on Day One as it shares Pool A with the Aussies, the USA and the Colombians.
The USA has a strong line-up with veteran Jillion Potter – known as the ‘indestructible Eagle’ – leading her team in Rio.
Suffering a broken neck in 2010, then being diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and missing the following year of competition, Potter returned to the Sevens circuit this year fitter and more determined than ever to take her team to Rio.
The final team in Pool A which Australia will have to overcome is the minnow of the group – Colombia. But never underestimate the underdog on the big stage.
As for the other two Pools …
The New Zealand women are strong and, until this past season, virtually unbeatable. So they will be expected to dominate Pool B, although France may have other ideas.
With Sarah Goss leading the All Black7s Women and Portia Woodman – International Player of the Year – scoring relentlessly, the Kiwis are a force to be reckoned with on any given day.
— NZ7s (@nz7s) July 3, 2016
But the Kiwis will have to overcome France, Spain and Kenya on its way to the quarter finals at the end of Day Two and this will be no easy task.
The French have grown in strength and confidence over this past season.
And the Spanish surprised everyone when they overran the Russians in Dublin last month to secure the prized final spot for Rio – well almost everyone!
“Nothing surprises me in Sevens anymore,” Aussie coach Tim Walsh told SBSZela.
“The Spanish are absolute fighters – they will have a crack at everything and they will never die wondering that’s for sure,” he said.
The Kenyans are thanking their lucky stars that the South African Rugby Union withdrew its Women’s team, who were the original qualifiers from Africa – but the Lionesses are now keen to prove they have a rightful place in this group of 12 world class teams.
In the final pool, Canada lead the way and will perhaps be looking at their group as the least onerous of the three Pools.
Lead by the well-inked and unflappable Jen Kish, the only real uncertainty for the North Americans will be the strength of the GB Team.
The Great Britain team is supposedly a compilation of players from the England, Wales and Scotland teams – however the final squad selected in fact only includes one non-English player, Jasmine Joyce from Wales.
The rest of the Women’s GB Team are a well-known and formidable line-up lead by Emily Scarratt who will be supported by veteran campaigner, the tall and lanky Joanne Watmore.
These two top four sides will be joined in Pool C by the team from Japan - realistically looking more to build a strong path of experience towards Tokyo 2020 than to the podium in Rio – and the hosts Brazil who will be wanting to give the home crowd something to cheer for.
In less than 2 weeks, from 6-8 August, all the drama will unfold over three days and 34 matches when three deserving teams will stand on the podium and celebrate their place in history.
How to watch
- Download the women's Rugby Sevens match schedule
- Note: Rio is 13 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time