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The format for Rugby 7s at the Youth Olympic Games is official and is favorable to the United States. While this format is different from the typical Cup, Plate, Bowl, Shield format seen on the HSBC Sevens World Series, it still offers an element of excitement as a team can finish 2-3 in pool play, yet still come away with a Gold Medal with a 2-0 performance in the playoff rounds.
The competition is structured to guarantee a morning and evening game for all teams from August 17th-August 19th, with possible medal matches taking place on August 20th. Each team will play every other nation once during pool play. Based on the results of those preliminary matches, teams will be seeded #1 through #6. A 5th/6th place match will then be played during the evening of August 19th, alongside semifinal matches between the teams seeded #1 through #4. Finally, on the morning of August 20th the Bronze and Gold medal matches will be played to decide the final winners.
This tournament structure is exhilarating due to its unpredictable nature. Not uncommon from most age-grade national team competitions, several teams present in Nanjing will be competing after only a minimal preparation period. Team USA is not excluded as the Boys only congregated briefly in Northern California before flying to China and the Girls participated in an even more informal gathering at the recent Serevi Elite Residence Camp in Chula Vista, without the luxury of having their full squad present. The reason this structure, coupled with the short preparation period, creates a sensational tournament is because there is ample opportunity for improvement. A team may struggle during the first couple matches of pool play, learning to play together as a unit, however, as long as they squeak into the semi-finals as at least a 4th seed they are one win away from a medal.
Overall, this format benefits the United States, as the practice time between the players for both the Boys and the Girls has been limited. To USA’s advantage, they will have plenty of time to overcome any possible initial struggles they may have.