Rugby sevens makes its debut at this event and rugger fans across the world cannot wait for the action to start. The sport joins other events such as football, hockey and volleyball as key team sports at Brazil 2016. Both men and women will compete for gold, silver and bronze at the Deodoro Stadium in Rio.
But what do we know about the sevens? And who are favourites to win medals in Rio this summer? Let’s take a look at the sport…
Rugby Sevens at Brazil 2016
This is rugby sevens’ debut, but the 15-man sport has a rich history. Rugby union was played in four of the first seven of these major tournaments. Only Germany, France and Great Britain entered in 1990 in Paris. Eight years later in London, Australasia won gold and the USA claimed the top prize in 1920 and 1924.
But spirit for rugby — a predominantly Commonwealth sport — dwindled as the tournament expanded across the world and only now, 92 years later, has it returned.
Rugby sevens can put much of its recent success in convincing the IOC to vote it in as an official sport to the Sevens Series. This annual tournament stages games from Vancouver to London, Cape Town to Hong Kong. This could be the big breakthrough this sport needs to be fully embraced on the world stage.
How the sevens will work
The sevens tournament is split into three groups of four, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the quarter-finals. Two of the three third-place teams will also join them in the last-eight.
From then on it’s a straight knockout to the final on 11 August. However, because sevens is effectively mini-rugby the teams who are eliminated continue to compete for other prizes. So, while winning teams will progress through the medals playoff rounds, those eliminated will compete for final positions between fourth and 12th.
The rules of the game are exactly the same as rugby union. But with only 14 players on the pitch there are always huge pockets of space to exploit and that almost always guarantees an action-packed game for spectators and rugby betting punters alike.
Favourites for gold: New Zealand of course!
Is there a more historically dominant team in the world than New Zealand in rugby? The All Blacks have won the last two Rugby World Cup finals and four of the last six World Sevens Series. They are also defending World Sevens Cup champions. Sevens head coach Gordon Tietjens has one of the fittest sporting sides on the planet at his disposal and in DJ Forbes a reliable, fearsome captain. New Zealand are 3.50 to win gold.
But the All Blacks are NOT favourites. That accolade goes to Fiji (3.00), the new kids on the block who have won the last two World Sevens Series. Since sevens was voted in as an official sport by the IOC in 2009 Fiji have piled resources into the game. For a small island nation this is a real opportunity to win gold on the world stage. Fiji not only defended their Sevens Series title in 2015/16 but scored 181 tries — the highest total from a series since New Zealand’s 198 in 2001/02.
South Africa — so often the bridesmaid and rarely the bride in sevens — are level with New Zealand at 3.50 to win and, more importantly, 1.38 to get a medal. Great Britain, meanwhile, are out at 13.00 to win and despite the leadership of captain Tom Mitchell they need a miracle to escape the Group of Death that includes New Zealand, France and Fiji.Bet Now on Rugby