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The qualification process for the 2016 Olympic Games has been confirmed.
The host nation, Brazil, receives automatic bids in both the men’s and women’s competitions, while core members of the men's and women's IRB 7s World Series will essentially have three chances to qualify – finish in the top four of the 2014/2015 World Series, win a regional qualifier, or win the repechage tournament.
Team Great Britain will only be able to qualify through one team on the World Series, so on the men’s side, the British Olympic Association will have to designate whether England, Wales or Scotland will represent it next season.
Theoretically, the BOA could pick England, see Wales finish in the top four and England out of it, and miss out on qualification via the Series.
The BOA has to make its designation by June 30th. If two teams from Great Britain finish in the top four, the automatic bid falls to the next-highest ranking team. Ireland competes independently in the Olympics.
There are six regional qualifiers – Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and the Caribbean, Oceania, and South America. The qualifier tournaments are to be played between June, 2015 and January, 2015. Teams which have qualified by finishing in the top four of the Series will not participate in regional qualifiers.
The final chance for a team to qualify is a repechage tournament, which will take place between December, 2015 and July, 2016. Regions will contribute teams which haven’t yet qualified to the 16-team event. The bid breakdown – Africa 3, Asia 3, Europe 4, NACRA 2, Oceania 2, South America 2.
For the United States, the women’s team is capable of finishing in the top four of the World Series, which it did last season, and securing early qualification. If it doesn’t, Canada likely will, leaving the Eagles the heavy favorite to win the North American qualifier. The 2014/2015 Women’s World Series is expected to expand to six tournaments.
The men’s road will be tougher. The Eagles are currently ranked 14th on the World Series, so finishing in the top four next season is a long shot. The same is true for Canada, currently ranked 11th, so both of North America’s top men’s teams are likely to be competing in the North American qualifier in 2015. If the Eagles fail to get past Canada there, but finish in the top three, they will have a final shot at the repechage tournament, which could include teams like Australia and Samoa.
For a full breakdown of the qualification process,
check out this PDF.