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Now that the Olympic Qualification process is set in stone, why not take a look at the men's Eagle’s chances of getting to Rio and examine who they may face once they do?
Top four teams in 14/15 World Series advance
New Zealand and Fiji have never finished outside the top four in IRB World Series final standings, so let’s pencil them in. Averaging final standings from the previous five seasons and current ranking this season, we’ll say England (average standing: 4) and South Africa (average standing: 2.8) also finish in the top four next season and secure early bids.
Six Regional Qualifiers
That leaves Samoa (which had a slightly lower average than England) and Australia as the only other core teams vying for qualification at the Oceania regional. Whichever doesn’t win will be the favorite to take the repechage bid.
I think it’s safe to assume Kenya wins Africa, Argentina takes South America and Japan tops Asia. In North America it’s between Canada and the United States, and in Europe you have to look at France, Portugal and Spain as the favorites, with Russia perhaps making a push. Who knows, maybe Ireland decides it wants to compete.
Let’s say the current IRB standings are some indication, and give the higher ranking teams the nod in the competitive regions. That gives us the following teams in with one bid left to be won.
Brazil - Automatic bid
New Zealand - Top 4
Fiji - Top 4
South Africa - Top 4
Great Britain - Top 4 via England
Kenya - Africa champ
Argentina - South America champ
Japan - Asia champ
Canada - North America champ
France - Europe champ
Samoa - Oceania champ
Non-qualifying teams who finish highest at their regional qualifiers move to the repechage, or last chance, competition. So, using traditional competitiveness as our guide, these are the guesses for who’s in the repechage:
Africa – Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Uganda
Asia – Hong Kong, South Korea, Sri Lanka
Europe – Portugal, Spain, Russia, Romania
North America – United States, Guyana
Oceania – Australia, Tonga
South America – Uruguay, Chile
Obviously, Australia would be the heavy favorite. Portugal, Spain, Russia and Hong Kong wouldn’t hate their chances, but neither would the United States. Every team minus Australia, an maybe Portugal, the Eagles would be favored to beat.
So the repechage isn’t death, but it does have far more competitive teams than the North America qualifier will. In that event, the USA can be on cruise control to the final, and all it takes is one win against Canada, and the defending Olympic champs are back in the big dance.
The Eagles have an astoundingly poor recent and overall record against
Canada in 7s, but occasionally they knock the Maple Leafs off or even blow
them out. The United States’ best shot at Olympic qualification is beating
Canada in the North American qualifier.