Lau Pa Sat, Singapore’s most iconic Hawker Market, in the heart of the city was the backdrop where the team captains gathered on Wednesday ahead of the highly-anticipated HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens kicking off on Saturday at the National Stadium.
Fresh off a thrilling weekend in Hong Kong, the world’s 16 best men’s teams have arrived in Singapore for the ninth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 as the race for Paris 2024 Olympic qualification starts to take shape with only three events to go.
New Zealand, who have tasted victory three times this season in Sydney, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, lead the Series standings with 142 points and can become the first nation other than hosts France to officially qualify for Paris 2024 if they hoist the trophy aloft on Sunday.
Hamilton and Vancouver winners Argentina (121) sit second behind New Zealand and are closely trailed by Hong Kong runners-up Fiji with 113 points, Paris 2024 hosts France with 112 points and South Africa with 101 points.
The men’s Series has seen five different winners (Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand) through the opening eight tournaments.
After a 10-year hiatus, in 2016 the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series made its triumphant return to Singapore, a location that hosted stops in 2002 and 2004 through 2006. Since then the tournament has seen four different nations crowned champions, including first-ever victories for Kenya in 2016 against Fiji and 2017 for Canada against their North American rivals, USA.
Fiji are the only nation to have been victorious on numerous occasions, winning in 2018 against Australia and 2022 with a defeat of their rivals, New Zealand. South Africa were champions in 2019 by blanking Fiji 19-0.
The 2023 Series continues to be the most competitive in history with the prize of Olympic Games Paris 2024 qualification on offer for the top four women’s and men’s teams in the standings. Hosts France men have pre-qualified for next year’s pinnacle event in the nation’s capital.
The stakes couldn’t be higher at the bottom end of the men’s Series this season as well.
Following the penultimate event in Toulouse, the 15th ranked team will be relegated while the 12th through 14th ranked teams will face-off against the Sevens Challenger Series 2023 winner for the 12th and final position on the 2024 Series.
As it stands, Japan (11 points) hold the lowest ranking among core teams, while Canada (22), Kenya (30), Uruguay (39) and Spain (40) will be fervently trying to accumulate points over the next two tournaments.
Pool A sees Series leaders New Zealand alongside Dubai winners South Africa, Hong Kong (round one) winners Australia and the invitational side Hong Kong China.
Hong Kong runners-up Fiji have been drawn with Spain, Samoa and Canada in Pool B, while France will meet USA, Uruguay and Kenya in Pool C.
Great Britain, who narrowly lost in the Hong Kong bronze final, will meet Argentina, Ireland and Japan in Pool D.
The action gets under way on Saturday at 09:30 local time (GMT+8) when Argentina takes on Ireland, with the final match of day one kicking off at 19:33 when Fiji face Spain.
Play begins on finals day on Sunday at 10:50 with the ninth place quarter-finals and the gold medal final scheduled for 19:28.
After Singapore, the teams will enjoy a short break before the action resumes with the men’s and women’s teams combined event at the HSBC France Sevens on 12-14 May at Stade Ernest-Wallon, before the final men’s event takes place in London the following weekend at HSBC London Sevens.
SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS