This year in rugby will be about who medalled. My English wife hates when I use “medal” as a verb, but I checked dictionary.com, and it backs me up. Who will win the gold? Betting on anyone other than Fiji, New Zealand, or South Africa would be lost money. Samoa might have looked strong in Paris, but Paris wasn’t about winning at all costs for many teams. And Samoa still has to qualify in Monaco on June 25 against 15 other teams including Ireland, Tonga, Russia, Canada, Zimbabwe, and Uruguay.
The bronze is where there is a big question mark. One of the above mentioned three could be eliminated in the knockout round, so who is left to take the bronze? That is where the USA has a shot. The rumor I’ve heard is that pool assignments for the Olympics will be based on world rank position at end of HSBC series. Sixth or seventh are the sweet spots. There is only one team most of the teams would think, “Yeah, we can beat them.” That team is Brazil, bless their zika-infested-samba-dancing hearts. Host team Brazil will end up ranked 12th and will be in the pool with teams ranked 1st, 6th, and 7th. You still have to get to the bronze medal match, but it is one step closer. The USA positioned themselves in one of the sweet spots in Paris and Zach Test laid clam to a place on the Olympic team if he hadn’t earned it long ago. Baker, Hughes, Barrett, and Bender are definites. I’d give them all a rest. I imagine Carln Isles is avoiding injury, but a little playing time before the “Big Show” in August might help with Olympic jitters. I should probably check if the roster has been announced.
The trick now in London is to play to stay at 6th or 7th. If Coach Friday were to follow my selection suggestion and leave all the above mentioned players off the London squad, here is the world rank position risk if his London selections don’t win a match. The following teams could pass the USA: Samoa (who hasn’t qualified yet), Kenya, and England – on their holy ground, Twickenham. Just saying the word makes you want to stand and sing, “Sing Low”. My wife loves when I do that.