The countdown to the annual Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship has begun, with less than a month to go until the action-packed weekend of rugby sevens at Brisbane’s Ballymore Stadium.

The three-day tournament starting on November 10 will feature 25 teams, 15 men’s and 10 women’s teams, from 14 countries in the region.

The top Pacific Island nations, Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa, are buzzing for some game time after a long break from the HSBC SVNS Series and World Rugby Challenger Series.

Tonga in particular will be seizing the opportunity to create history and qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics for the first time for their island nation.

Tonga Men’s Sevens Coach Tevita Tuifua said securing a direct Olympics qualification spot would mean more than just a sporting achievement.

“It represents not only a chance to showcase our talent on the global stage but also a testament to the hard work and dedication of our players, support staff, Tonga Rugby Union, and government. It would be a source of inspiration for our entire nation.”

“It would provide our athletes with a platform to not only represent Tonga but also to embody our team’s values of resilience and determination. It would undoubtedly boost the development of rugby sevens in Tonga, encouraging more young talents to pursue the sport and strengthen our rugby community,” he added.

Tuifua recognises that of the 10 men’s teams participating in the Olympic qualification section, only the winner will qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics, and all teams will be coming into Brisbane with guns blazing.

“We understand that the Oceania 7s will be a highly competitive tournament with strong teams vying for success. However, we believe in our squad’s abilities, their work ethic, and the lessons learned from past challenges. We are eager to bring our best to the competition and strive for success once again.”

“Our focus remains on continuous improvement, teamwork, and representing our nation with pride. While we respect our competitors, we enter this tournament with a strong sense of self-belief and the determination to perform at our best.”

The Tongans established their fellow Pacific Island brothers, Samoa, as one of their top contenders in the competition.

“While we acknowledge Samoa as a strong and seasoned competitor, it’s important to highlight that the tournament is known for its high level of competition, and there are several formidable teams that we consider potential threats as well. We’ve seen significant growth in the performance of island nations like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands, which have been improving year after year and can’t be underestimated.2

Tuifua added: “Every team participating in the Oceania 7s presents a unique challenge, and our approach is to respect and prepare for each opponent with equal focus and determination. Our goal is to perform at our very best in every match, regardless of the opponent, and strive to achieve our objectives in the tournament.”

Like Tonga, Samoa’s Men’s Coach, Brian Lima, says making it to Paris is at the top of the agenda for his men.

“We have been preparing well since the end of the HSBC series, despite losing some of our key players like Vaa Maliko. Although we were extremely disappointed that we missed out on automatic qualification, we are aware that the Oceania 7s is perhaps our best chance to qualify, with New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia having already qualified. It is critical that we make use of this opportunity because, should we fail, the chances will be even more difficult, with South Africa, Great Britain, and Ireland also vying for the remaining spots in the final Olympic repechage next year”.

Fijiana 7s Coach Saiasi Fuli said they will use this competition as a platform to gain some game time while keeping an eye on the prize.

“It’s a massive opportunity for us as a team to prepare well and play in these upcoming Oceania 7s. We are into our preseason phase, and our girls are looking forward to playing in the Oceania 7s and trying to secure a spot for the Paris Olympics. We missed out on the series until the final day in Toulouse, and we as a group had set our goal to rest well, recover, and prepare for the qualification.”

The Championships pre-qualified Olympic teams, New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji men’s teams, including the New Zealand Development and Australia 7s women’s teams, will also be looking to sharpen their sides at Ballymore ahead of a mammoth year of sevens rugby awaiting them in 2024.

Across three days of competition, 66 matches (35 men’s and 31 women’s matches) will be played in thrilling sevens action.

There will be an exciting raft of entertainments during the three days, with DJs representing their different islands nations, like Samoan DJ Masini, Fijian DJ Bailey, Fijian, Tongan, DJ Bawlin, and Cook Islander DJ GZ, performances from the artist JSQE, who is half Samoan and Fijian and many others.

The sevens action will kick off at 12.00 p.m AEST local time on day 1 on Friday, 10 November 10, when Samoa take on Nauru in the women’s competition.