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A new seeding system and format is in play for the upcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens set for San Francisco next July. It will see teams essentially jump straight into bracket play, shunning pool play altogether. 

On the men’s side, there are 24 teams. 23 of them have been decided, with one team from Oceania and two from South America yet to be identified. For seeding purposes, the top 14 have been put into one category and the remaining 10 in another.

For the top 14, their seeding will be based on total HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series points between the entire 2016/2017 season and the first seven stops of the current campaign. The Singapore, London and Paris stops will not be factored in. Through just one tournament, Dubai, last year’s final standings still hold true, with no one leapfrogging anyone else.

The top eight out of that 14 will receive first-round byes, while the other six will have to play their way into a 16-team knockout bracket. If the World Cup started tomorrow, the USA would be seeded sixth, therefore earning a bye. Canada would be eighth, and therefore the last team to receive a bye.

The bottom 10 men’s teams will be seeded based on the annual World Series qualification tournament in Hong Kong. Whoever wins will be the 15th seed, the runner-up the 16th seed, so on and so forth.

The reward for the top eight seeds could be interpreted as a setback. Generally, teams tend to play better as tournaments progress and they get more minutes under them. On day one of the World Cup, winners of the play-in games will have 14 minutes under them while the higher seeds come in cold. Could mean some upsets for the middling teams.  

On the women’s side, it is a 16-team tournament, and all tickets have been punched. The top 10 seeds will be decided by an aggregate of last season’s World Series standings and the first two tournaments this season. With Dubai already in the books and just Sydney to go before the top 10 seeds are cemented, there shouldn’t be much shakeup.

There already has been some movement, though. Fiji finished fourth last season, but with a dismal performance in Dubai, if the World Cup started tomorrow, Fijiana would be seeded seventh. The top three spots are almost certain to stay as they are.

Russia and the USA are separated by just two points, so if the Eagles have a good tournament in Sydney, they could jump Russia and claim the fourth seed. The difference between fourth and fifth isn’t much, as Russia and the USA would still meet in the quarterfinals if they won their heavily favored first-round matches.

The 11th seed automatically went to Japan, and the bottom five will be determined in Hong Kong. Unlike the men’s bracket, there is no play-in round and no byes. It’s a straight 16-team knockout. 

Above is a graphic showing what the field would look like for the teams whose seeding is dependent upon World Series points. Those left to be slotted based on Hong Kong are shown as unseeded.