The current plan for selection of the 12 teams to compete in the 2016 Olympics calls for the top four teams in the 2014-15 Seven’s World Series (SWS) to have automatic qualification. The USA women are 9th after one stop on the 4 stop 2012-13 women’s SWS. The USA men are 11th after 3 stops on the men’s 2012-13 SWS which has 9 stops.
If the US teams don’t make the top 4 in the 2014-15 SWS, they will have to win the North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) tournament in 2015 or early 2016. Barring the rapid rise of a Caribbean team or Mexico, the main obstacle for both the men and women will be Canada. Canada is ranked one spot ahead of the USA men in this season’s SWS and Canada’s women are 6th after the first stop on the women’s tour.
The top four teams in the current SWS in January, 2013 are:
Men – New Zealand, France, Fiji, South Africa
Women – New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Australia
With a little over 2 years to go until the end of the 2014-15 SWS it is highly unlikely that the US teams will be cracking the top 4. The women perhaps got off to a very poor start in Dubai in Dec. 2012 and will return to a much more competitive form when they return to action in Houston on Feb. 1, 2013, but the men are almost hopelessly out of contention for a top 4 spot for the next decade at least. The men have never been ranked higher than 10th in the 13 years the men’s SWS has existed, and if the US don’t qualify for the Olympics then the general public support and sponsorship that would have developed will be delayed at least another 4 years.
How well do US teams do against the Canadians?
In the past 6 months the US men have played the Canadians 4 times and lost 3.
8/26/12 Canada 26 USA 19 (L) Ottawa
10/12/12 Canada 22 USA 21 (L) Australia
11/30/12 Canada 26 USA 7 (L) Dubai
12/8/12 Canada 12 USA 26 (W) South Africa
The US women haven’t faced the Canadians in the past 6 months. In Dubai at the end of November both sides faced the Australian women. The US side lost 15 to 7 and Canada lost 14 to 10. At the Amsterdam 7s in June, 2012, the Eagles lost 26-19 to the Maple Leafs in the final. An article by a staff writer for the Canadian sport channel The Sport Network referred to the USA women as upstarts and listed England as Canada’s main rival.
The following is a link to the match on YouTube:
If the Olympic qualifying matches were held in the next few months, the Canadians would be the favorites.
On Feb. 1st Houston hosts the second stop of the innaugural 2012-13 women’s SWS and on Feb. 8th Las Vegas hosts the 5th stop on the men’s SWS. The women have the most to prove in this first year of their SWS, Dubai was a dismal start for the country that won the initial women’s World Cup in 1991. The US men’s best finish in the previous 13 years of the SWS was 10th in 2009-10. In the 112 cup finals that have been played since the inception of the men’s SWS the USA men have been in one. On March 21, 2010, the Eagles lost to Samoa in the cup final in Australia 36-10.
In the upcoming men and women SWS tournaments, we can certainly hope that both sides will capture the Cup, but the chances of that happening are slim. Realistically it can be hoped that after both men and women have spent a month at the Olympic training center getting ready for this season’s SWS with a longer view to Olympic qualification, they will have a showing that moves them ahead of Canada or at least demonstrates the training plan is clearly developing sides that will easily defeat Canada easily in 2015.