For the second successive Rugby World Cup Sevens, the tournaments in Cape Town will operate in a straight knockout format.
That means every match counts and no team can afford a slow start.
RWC Sevens 2022 will get underway at 08:45 local time (GMT +2) on Friday, when Ireland take on Portugal in the men’s pre-round of 16.
Ireland head to South Africa fresh from a fifth-placed finish on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, their highest to date, and with the season’s most prolific try-scorer, Terry Kennedy, in their ranks.
They made sure of their ticket to Cape Town at the RWC Sevens 2022 Europe Qualifier in Bucharest in July, where they beat Portugal 29-0 in the pool stage.
However, they will know they cannot take the Portuguese lightly, having needed a Jimmy O’Brien try in the last play of the match to edge past Chile at this stage in San Francisco four years ago.
Each of the 16 teams contesting the men’s pre-round of 16 will be focused solely on winning their opening match and maintaining their hopes of a triumphant weekend at DHL Stadium.
Victory in the men’s pre-round of 16 will secure a team’s passage to the round of 16, where those countries will be joined by the eight seeded nations – England, France, USA, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, Fiji and South Africa.
The draw for those matches has already been made, so, for example, Ireland and Portugal know that whoever wins their match will go on to play England in the next round.
Scotland, meanwhile, who finished seventh at RWC Sevens 2018 – the best of any team starting this year’s tournament in the men’s pre-round of 16 – will play defending champions New Zealand if they beat Jamaica first up.
The equation facing the Scots in the round of 16 would remain the same, they would have to defeat the three-time winners of the tournament in order to reach the quarter-finals.
By the time that the All Blacks Sevens make their RWC Sevens 2022 debut, the first six matches of the women’s tournament will have been played.
Beginning with the round of 16, the women’s action will kick off when 2022 Series winners Australia take on RWC Sevens debutants Madagascar at 12:11 local time (GMT +2).
Nothing less than victory will do as Australia, bronze medallists four years ago, attempt to win a second RWC Sevens title.
Upsets should not be discounted at this stage. Four years ago, an England squad featuring Emily Scarratt, Holly Aitchison, Jess Breach and Natasha Hunt were eliminated by Ireland in the round of 16.
“Unlike any other tournament”
Eight men’s and eight women’s teams will be left standing on day two as the Championship quarter-finals are played from 19:07 local time (GMT +2).
The winners of those matches will return on day three for the Championship semi-finals, the victors of which will contest the two finals.
Following the bronze finals, the women’s Championship final will kick-off at 20:17 local time before RWC Sevens 2022 comes to a close with the men’s Championship final at 20:54 local time (GMT +2).
New Zealand head into RWC Sevens 2022 as defending champions in both the men’s and women’s tournaments and All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw admits his side must be ready for the challenge.
“The World Cup is unlike any other tournament. Only playing four games across three days; there is a lot of downtime where you could over-think things so getting that balance right is important,” Laidlaw said.
“Some of our fondest memories are tournaments in South Africa, they have passionate fans. If we come up against South Africa you won’t find a more hostile environment – we’re excited to get there.”
SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS