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The women start off Saturday with Fiji at 12:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. This is a massively important match as far as determining the knockout stages go, as these two teams figure to finish second or third. The USA won the last three meetings against Fijiana, beating them in France, Canada and Atlanta. All-time on the Women's World Series, the USA holds a 6-2 record over Fiji.
Recently, the Fiji Times featured Fiji captain Ana Maria Roqica, who comes from an athletic family. When she was little, her mother played for the Nabukavesi team, and when Roqica would cry, her grandfather would blow a whistle to call her mom off the training pitch to tend to her.
"My Ana Maria was just a baby then and I was part of the Nabukavesi women's rugby 7s team that was going to play in the Marist 7s," her mother told the Times.
"She was only a few months old and my father was against me playing rugby as she was still a baby. Ana's dad was in the Middle East at that time.
"So, every time Ana cried when I was out training, he would blow the whistle and I would know straight away that I needed to go and feed or change her."
Roqica is joined on the Olympic team by her cousin, Rusila Nagasau.
Fiji's men's team is the overwhelming favorite to win gold in Rio. The women are underdogs, though, and the Fiji Sun published a piece on how the side is relishing that role, but building confidence by training with the favored men.
The women took the day off Saturday. They were encamped in Santiago, Chile and trekked to the Andes mountains. Head coach Chris Cracknell, who played for Fiji men's coach Ben Ryan at England, journaled the epxerience.
"For some of them, it was their first time seeing snow, and from the videos and pictures they have had a fantastic day," he wrote. "If snow ball fights were to become an Olympic sport, Rusila Nagasau and Jiowana Sauto would be front runners to be double Olympians."
Team USA's second game Saturday at 5:00 p.m. ET is against Colombia, and it will air live on CNBC. These two teams have never met on the World Series. Colombia somewhat surprisingly punched its ticket to the Games by winning the South American qualifier, beating out presumptive favorite Argentina.
Colombia is coached by Frenchman Laurent Palau, and the team's nickname is the Tucanes - yes the bird. Even as the Games approach, the Tucanes aren't receiving much media attention at home or abroad.
Australia, on the other hand, is. One player getting more ink than others is Ellia Green. She's the female Carlin Isles, the fastest woman in rugby and a track convert who came to the game late in life. The Sydney Morning Herald profiled her, as did another Australian outlet.
While Australia was dominant during the last World Series, winning three of five tournaments and never finishing outside of the semifinals, the USA hasn't fared poorly head-to-head. All-time on the World Series, the Eagles are 5-4-1 against Australia. The Aussies won both meetings last season, 34-0 and 22-5. But the Eagles held the advantage the season prior, winning two and drawing once. The USA and Australia clash at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday on the USA Network.
Australia did kick it into another gear last season, adding pace and playing a less confrontational game. While speed and space have always been coveted in 7s, The Guardian claims the Australia women have changed the game by embracing a quicker game on a new level.
“The style of play is something we’ve created,” Australia co-captain Sharni Williams told The Guardian. “It’s more of an intelligent game. There’s a full-size field, the same as 15s, so it just makes sense. If you’ve got three players in front of you there’s got to be space wider out. So move it there and go. You want people who can pass left and right, who can switch, who can up their pace.”
Like Team USA, the Australian women are hoping success in Rio will lead to more exposure for the sport back home. Rugby has a much better foothold in Australia than in the States, but the women's game still has a lot of room to grow.
“4,000 women and girls competing in regular sevens competition. There’s another 1,600 regularly playing in traditional XVs competition across the country,” Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver told The Guardian.
“We are certain that any success they have in Rio will have a game-changing effect on the entire landscape of women’s sport. As a young girl considering what sport to play, not only is there an established World Series in sevens rugby, there is now the ultimate carrot of becoming an Olympian and having a chance to compete on sport’s ultimate stage."