LA Sevens preview
ROUND SIX: For the second time in less than six months, the Sevens World Series returns to Los Angeles this weekend.
The battle for Series glory and the all-important Olympic qualification heats up at the two-day event.
The 2023 Series is shaping up to be the most competitive in history with the prize of Olympic Games Paris 2024 qualification on offer for the top four teams in the 2023 Series standings, while hosts France have pre-qualified for next year’s pinnacle event in the nation’s capital.
The series has seen nine different teams reach the Cup semifinal stage, with all nine nations medaling across the first five tournaments.
There have been five different gold medal winners (Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand), four different silver medalists (Fiji, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand twice) and four bronze medalists (France, New Zealand, Fiji and the United States twice).
New Zealand currently sits atop the Series standings with 85 points, followed by South Africa at 76 points and five nations (Samoa, France, Fiji, Argentina and the United States) are separated by just two points between 68 and 66 in the race for the final two spots for Paris 2024.
The United States will look to use their home-field advantage and passionate fans as an added boost when they continue their quest of qualifying for Paris 2024 next year.
The Americans have tasted victory twice in front of their home supporters, having won back-to-back cup titles in 2018 and 2019 in Las Vegas before the event moved back to California.
Currently, in seventh place on the Series standings, the Eagles have won two bronze medals this year in Cape Town and Hamilton and sit just two points back of a tie for third place in the race for qualification.
“The season is at stake this weekend,” United States captain Kevon Williams said.
“We’re three points behind third place with the top four qualifying for Paris so this weekend is a really big weekend for us as far as staying in contention for qualifying for the Olympics.
“We’ve been known in the history that this tournament is our best tournament. Whether it’s been in Las Vegas or Los Angeles we’ve always played well at home. The United States has three cup wins and two of them are on home soil so we play big when it comes here.”
The pool draw for Los Angeles sees Sydney champions New Zealand take their place in Pool A alongside Cape Town champions Samoa, hosts United States and invitational team Chile.
“We know how fast the points situation can change,” New Zealand captain Sam Dickson said.
“We started in ninth after Hong Kong so we’ve done well to bounce back and get out front but with six tournaments left anything can happen so we’ll be giving it our best this weekend to stay on top.”
Dubai champions South Africa slot into Pool B alongside Ireland, Uruguay and Canada.
Sydney bronze medal winners Fiji lead Pool C and will face off against Hong Kong champions Australia, Kenya and Japan.
France, who currently sit fourth in the Series standings, are joined by Great Britain, Hamilton champions Argentina and Spain in Pool D.
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 to the 2024 Sevens Challenger Series, 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.
“One good tournament is all you need to get some momentum going and we’ve been telling ourselves not to stress too much about the end of the season so we’ll take it one game and one tournament at a time,” Canada captain Phil Berna said.
“We have a job to do here this weekend and we know the better we do this weekend the better position we put ourselves in Vancouver at our home tournament so our focus is on LA.”
(Kick-off is local time – GMT minus 12 hours)
Saturday, February 25
Great Britain v Argentina (09.15)
France v Spain ( 09.37)
Samoa v United States (09.59)
New Zealand v Chile (10.21)
Australia v Kenya (10.43)
Fiji v Japan (11.05)
Ireland v Uruguay (11.27)
South Africa v Canada (11.49)
Great Britain v Spain (12.11)
France v Argentina (12.33)
Samoa v Chile (13.12)
New Zealand v United States (13.34)
Australia v Japan (13.56)
Fiji v Kenya (14.18)
Ireland v Canada (14.40)
South Africa v Uruguay (15.02)
Argentina v Spain (15.24)
France v Great Britain (15.46)
United States v Chile (16.08)
New Zealand v Samoa (16.30)
Kenya v Japan (17.37)
Fiji v Australia (18.05)
Uruguay v Canada (18.35)
South Africa v Ireland (19.03)