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How All Blacks and Black Ferns Sevens can clinch World Series glory in Toulouse

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The 16 men’s and 12 women’s team captains gathered on Wednesday at Port de la Daurade on the bank of the Garonne river ahead of what promises to be a nail-biting weekend of rugby sevens on 12-14 May at Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse.

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The HSBC France Sevens marks the final event of the women’s Series where the champions will be crowned and the penultimate round for the men with Paris 2024 Olympic qualification and Series glory up for grabs, while a must-see battle to avoid relegation comes to a close.

Women’s Series leaders New Zealand, who have won five of six tournaments this season, can officially clinch their first Series title since 2020 by qualifying for the quarter-finals this weekend in Toulouse.

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The Black Ferns Sevens, along with hosts France, Australia – the only other nation to win a women’s Series event this season – and USA have already qualified for Paris 2024, leaving the remaining spot to be decided this weekend with just four points separating Ireland (64), Fiji (62) and Great Britain (60).

If Ireland finish ahead of both Fiji and Great Britain in the end-of-weekend standings, they will secure the final Paris 2024 spot. For Fiji to claim qualification, they need to finish one place higher than Great Britain and two places ahead of Ireland while Great Britain need to finish two places higher than Fiji and three above Ireland to book their ticket to Paris next July.

Ireland captain Lucy Mulhall said: “We’re feeling very excited for this weekend. It’s nice to play close to home so there we’ve got a large contingent of family coming over to watch us so we’re really excited.

“We’re hoping this weekend is third time lucky for some of us to qualify for the Olympics. There’s everything to play for and we knew going into the last tournament that it was going to come right down to the end so it’s really exciting and really special to hopefully qualify here in Toulouse with our family support behind us.”

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Pool A in Toulouse features New Zealand, Canada, USA and invitational side Poland who are fresh off competing in the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in two events in Stellenbosch last month.

Australia will meet hosts France, Ireland and Brazil in Pool B, while Great Britain, Fiji, Spain and Japan make up Pool C.

New Zealand’s back-to-back victories in Hong Kong and Singapore mean they now lead the men’s standings by 24 points. With only a maximum of 42 points available in Toulouse and London, the All Blacks Sevens could wrap up the 2023 Series title in France this weekend if they finish 19 points clear of second place Argentina.

Hamilton and Vancouver winners Los Pumas Sevens (140) are closely trailed by Hong Kong runners-up Fiji with 130 points, Paris 2024 hosts France with 122 points, Australia on 112, Samoa a point further back and South Africa on 106.

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The men’s Series has seen five different winners (Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand) through the opening nine tournaments.

New Zealand became the first nation other than hosts France to secure their Paris 2024 Olympic spot in Singapore, and the three remaining spots will be filled over the next two weekends. Argentina can officially qualify this weekend by making the Cup semi-finals, while Fiji can secure their spot by winning the Cup title at Stade Ernest-Wallon on Sunday evening.

New Zealand will meet Uruguay, Kenya and Canada in Pool A, while Singapore runners-up Argentina tackle Great Britain, Spain and the invitational side Germany, who also competed last month in the Challenger Series, in Pool B.

Fiji, bronze medalists in Singapore, face a tricky task with hosts France, South Africa and USA their opponents in Pool C, with Samoa, Australia, Japan and Ireland making up Pool D.

France captain Paulin Riva said: “It’s very exciting for us to play in our home country, and for me I’m very lucky to play in my hometown of Toulouse, so we’re really excited for this weekend. We want to win a tournament, and have had good results so far this season and we have been working very hard ahead of this weekend. We want to win and finish the season in the top three.”

The stakes also couldn’t be higher at the bottom of the men’s Series this season.

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Following this weekend’s penultimate event in Toulouse, the 15th ranked core team will be relegated while the 12th through 14th ranked teams will face-off next weekend in London against the Challenger Series 2023 winners – Tonga – for the 12th and final position on the 2024 Series.

As it stands, Japan (16 points) hold the lowest ranking among core teams but the race to avoid the relegation play-off took another twist with Uruguay (49 points) returning to 11th after their run to the Cup quarter-finals in Singapore. Uruguay, Spain (48), Kenya (37), Canada (24) and Japan will all be fervently trying to accumulate points in Toulouse.

Japan could escape automatic relegation if they make the Cup quarter-finals and Canada finish last or second-to-last this weekend. Uruguay will avoid the relegation play-off if they finish higher or equal with Spain in Toulouse, while Spain will leapfrog Uruguay if they finish one position higher than Uruguay.

– World Rugby/Press Release

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Shaylen 8 hours ago
Brumbies the best team in Australia but still nothing to show for it

The Brumbies have been the strongest side in Australia for a long time and that was down to their forwards and set piece which has always been good and has always been able to dominate their Australian counterparts. This year the lack of maul tries and also the lack of a stable scrum has been a real problem which was also something Nick alluded to in his article this week about the creaking brumbies tight five. Home advantage is key as you say and the Brumbies must find a way to score more bonus points. If the Brumbies are really serious about winning a title they need to do what Kiwi sides at the top do. They need to smash every Aus side with a bonus point at home while claiming losing bonus points in every game they lose and denying their rivals bonus points. In their 3 losses in NZ this year they were smashed. They only scored 60 tries which is middle of the road, their scrum came in at 73% which was one of the worst in the comp, tackle success at just 83% which was right at the bottom and in terms of metres, clean breaks, carries, offloads and rucks built they were in the middle plus they had the most yellows. They basically were just not dominant enough wile they can improve their discipline. They excelled at kicking and won plenty of lineout ball plus their rucks were secure at 97%. Not sure about turnovers but they weren’t bad there. They just need to be more clinical and give away less and they will give themselves the best chance to win the title.

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