The Black Ferns Sevens became the first team to qualify from the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 by winning in Vancouver but which teams will join them and hosts France in the line-up over the coming weeks and months?
As hosts, France’s place in both the men’s and women’s rugby sevens competitions at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has already been confirmed.
But with just two rounds remaining in the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and four in the men’s only one team across both competitions has secured enough points to be guaranteed their place alongside them in the Paris line-up.
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By winning in Vancouver at the start of March, New Zealand’s women became the first team to be certain of one of the four qualifying places based on the Series standings.
A fourth consecutive tournament title, following on from earlier triumphs in Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney, makes it impossible for Fiji and the rest of the chasing pack to catch them.
Australia and the USA, who are second and third behind the Black Ferns Sevens, are the favourites to be the next teams to join them in Paris by reaching the quarter-finals of this weekend’s Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
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This could be determined after the second pool match on Friday, or more likely the final pool match on Saturday.
Given the fact Australia have medalled in all bar one of the five tournaments to date and the USA have been ever-presents on the podium, it is more than likely that both teams will achieve their goal.
There are three realistic contenders for what would be the fourth automatic qualifying place in Ireland (58 points), Fiji (48 points) and Great Britain (44 points).
It is mathematically possible for others to enter the fray but it would take a major transformation in the fortunes of the teams below this trio, led by Canada (26 points), for that to happen.
Unless Ireland pick up 10 points more than Fiji in Hong Kong, the race for the fourth and final automatic qualifying place from the women’s Series won’t be decided until the final tournament in Toulouse, on 12-14 May.
NOTHING SETTLED UNTIL SINGAPORE
With the men’s Series being the most competitive that legends of sevens like Simon Amor have ever known, much is still to be decided, both in terms of silverware and Olympic qualification.
Ahead of the eagerly-awaited Hong Kong weekend, New Zealand are top of the standings on 120 points with Argentina (108 points) their nearest chasers.
France are third, on 95 points, but as they are not in the qualification picture, that leaves Fiji and Australia (94 points apiece) currently in the other two automatic qualifying places.
Samoa and South Africa, both of whom have won Cup titles this Series, are locked together on 89 points, while Ireland (83 points) and the USA (81 points) are still within striking distance.
Rio 2016 silver medallists, Great Britain, are the best of the rest, on 57 points, but with too much ground to make up, it would seem, even with a maximum of 88 points still on offer.
As things stand, no men’s team can book their ticket to Paris this weekend; however, New Zealand will secure their place with two rounds to spare if they put 44 points between themselves and the side ranked fifth in the qualification race after Singapore (8-9 April).