Defending champions Wales will clash with Fiji early in the group stages, while New Zealand has a fairly early run in group D against the United States, Canada and Georgia.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Nick Jordan, Rugby Sevens commentator
JORDAN: Firstly it wasn't the balls out of the hat, it was the little Russian dolls that were all lined up Richard to come out each with a team name in them, 24 men's teams and 16 women's teams in those Russian dolls. And yes, Cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky sent a message from space about how much he's looking forward to viewing the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow. I'm not sure whether he'll be home for it, he might be watching from up there. But yeah, terrific occasion, and a rugby world cup sevens like no other coming up of course in the new frontier that is Russian rugby.
EWART: So let's get down to the nitty gritty of who will be playing who, and of the names that have come out I think we look at Pool E as possibly the outstanding or certainly for teams from the Pacific. Fiji in there with Wales, Tonga and Uruguay, that promises to be quite a little round of matches?
JORDAN: Yes it definitely is because Wales are the reigning rugby world cup sevens champion, they've won nothing since then, in fact they haven't made a semi-final I think since then. Whereas Fiji and Tonga of course, two teams we'll be looking out for from a Pacific point of view, and Uruguay who qualified just on the weekend at Rio de Janeiro. So a tough pool for Fiji, because Wales will get up for the tournament, as will Tonga. There'll be certainly a good rivalry in there. Samoa is the other team from Oceania drawn against Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Philippines, so quite an easy draw for Samoa. I mean Kenya will be difficult, but they should be able to run up plenty of points against Zimbabwe and the Philippines. New Zealand find themselves in pool d against the United States, Canada and Georgia. So yeah, an interesting little pool there for the leading side on the series right now. And Australia take on France, Spain and Tunisia, who will all be tough teams to beat. They may not win, but they'll certainly go down fighting if you like. So of those groups, I think all four, five teams from Oceania region should be able to progress. And then it's not as simple Richard as a simple 16 team draw where the top two go through. Only the top team from each pool goes through, and then the next two best second placed teams. So Samoa for instance, if they were to lose to Kenya with that pool draw with those easy games against Zimbabwe and the Philippines, could well find themselves in poll position. So certainly lots of permutations that come out of this 24 team draw.
EWART: So what that effectively means is that in every game no side whether they're winning or losing can really afford to take their foot off the gas, because it could be you lose a game but that try you score in the last minute could be the difference between qualifying or not when it comes to the final positions?
JORDAN: Exactly right and so it does means there's something riding on every game, it also means that goal kicking becomes perhaps even more important than it has done. So many times this season we've seen teams fire their conversions wide of the mark, and in some cases from right in front, just rush it and miss two points, now those two points could be critical in the points difference. So yeah, it does make for a much more competitive type format where every point counts, and yeah that could really come into play right at the end of day two.
EWART: And of course at the back of everybody's mind is the prospect of rugby sevens also appearing in the Olympic Games for the first time in the not too distant future. We've already seen the impact that that's had on the IRB world sevens series, we've had a different winner in every competition. And for example Fiji have failed to qualify from the pool round for the first time, and they were accused of basically taking it too easy and thinking they could just coast through. These stalwarts of sevens rugby like Fiji are beginning to realise that they're going to have raise their game because if they don't, the teams behind them will.
JORDAN: Yes and you're right and the five different tournaments have produced five different winners, and we've seen a real levelling out of the competition. I think of the 15 core teams that are now on the circuit, all of whom are at the rugby world cup sevens in June, only one of them has not made a quarter final this year in the five tournaments, and that's Spain, but they're not far off it. So that shows you that lots of teams can get through to the last eight, and from there it's anybody's game. That's why it's one of the new sports in the Olympic Games because of that uncertainty of outcome, because it's so exciting and so unpredictable as to who could win a game and then who could go on and win a tournament. Of course looking at the Rugby World Cup Sevens as a little bit of a precursor to the Olympics, Moscow 2013 having 24 teams, whereas as Rio 2016 only having 12 teams, you also look at where the teams are coming from around the world. And it's great to see all the regions represented from Africa, Asia, America, Oceania and Europe, but also going to be one eye on the future saying it's going to be well, well twice as tough technically isn't it to get into the Olympic Games because there's only half as many teams. So we'll watch with interest how the different regions perform as well, and I think the Oceania region as a whole has got a challenge ahead of it in trying to produce or to keep competing at that level, perhaps with more competitions, with better structures, with more tournaments around this region, to keep our athletes at the top of their game.
EWART: And Nick mention of the draw for the women's World Cup, Fiji flying the flag for the Pacific, Australia the defending champions. What lies ahead for them?
JORDAN: Yes Fiji a difficult pool Richard with the United States who have quite a strong women's team, also Spain and Brazil in pool C. New Zealand take on Canada, the Netherlands and Tunisia in pool a, and that could be a real banana skin waiting for New Zealand, because with both Canada and the Netherlands are virtually on full-time programs now with their women's game. And Australia, the reigning world champions from 2009 have South Africa, China and Ireland, so very much some unknown quantities in the Australian's pool. We know a little bit about South Africa, they made the final at Dubai last December. China obviously huge potential with the numbers that could be playing the game over there, but nothing really proven at international level just yet, and Ireland, a real unknown, they don't even play in the men's game. But the women's team has some funding and some systems to go forward on, but not much known about them at all. The final pool there Richard sees England, Russia, France and Japan. So what a match up there with east playing west, but yes, some good quality pools there in the women's draw. More traditional 16 team draw where the top two go through to the last eight on the final day, and again should be a very exciting competition come the end of June.