Rugby returned to the Olympics for the first time in over 90 years in Rio, with the seven-a-side format making its Olympic bow. The women were given the honour of kicking us off on day one of the tournament, with the men getting underway on Tuesday. It’s a far more exciting and high intensity game than the 15s, and having the sport in the Olympics will hopefully spread its awareness.
There was a big gulf in class between the more familiar nations and the minnows on the opening day at the Deodoro Stadium. Australia currently lead Pool A after thumping Colombia 53-0, and Pool B toppers New Zealand whipped Kenya 52-0. The most excitement however comes in Pool C where Canada and Team GB will be battling it out to see who finishes top, with both sides claiming handsome wins over Japan and Brazil.
Australia’s Charlotte Caslick became the first player to claim a hat-trick in the new sport at the Olympics in that emphatic win over Colombia, which was the second match of the day. USA and Fiji will battle it out for the second spot in Pool A, with both sides recording a win and a loss on day one, and with Fiji facing Colombia on Sunday, they should take automatic qualification for the quarter-finals.
New Zealand and France both picked up two wins in Pool B on day one, with Portia Woodman and Kayla McAlister in amongst the tries for the All Blacks. France aren’t one of the stand out candidates for a medal, and with 24-7 & 40-7 victories over Spain and Kenya respectively they will be quietly confident about going into the quarter-finals, and can use their final group match against favourites New Zealand to evaluate their progress.
Canada will be a surprise to most, not really recognised in the 15-a-side game. They currently top Pool C ahead of Team GB with big wins over Japan (45-0) and Brazil (38-0). GB were slow to get going in their opening match against hosts Brazil, and they would have wanted more than the 29-3 win. The clash between Canada and Great Britain closes out the group stage, and that could be the match of the tournament so far.
The lesser sides still have everything to play for, with the two best third place best teams also qualifying for the knockout stages. So one of Spain, Kenya, Brazil and Japan will go through to the quarter-finals.