The Rugby 7s programme at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games got underway earlier today, with a number of star players taking part as they go in search of an elusive gold medal.
New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain and Fiji are all through to the next round already having gone through the initial matches of the pool stages unbeaten, with the competition resuming tomorrow before Wednesday’s placing and medal matches.
The Olympics lends itself to big name players performing at their best. Here are some of the highest profile players to watch out for.
Semi Radradra (Fiji)
Perhaps the best known and the most feared player in world rugby at the moment, Radradra is a lethal weapon in any side’s attack and, given his Rugby League and previous Sevens experience, the big man is right at home in the minature game. He hasn’t quite had a chance to show his true potential just yet but give him time and space, and he can make his mark on the Olympics in a Fijian side which has just one player from its 2016 gold medal winning squad (captain Jerry Tuwai) in Tokyo.
Samu Kerevi (Australia)
A Tokyo-based player now courtesy of his club rugby with Suntory Goliath, Kerevi has possibly had the shortest distance to travel barring the Japanese squad for the Olympics. Kerevi, who was born in Fiji before moving the Soloman Islands and later Australia where he achieved citizenship in August 2016, is a collosal figure in the mid-field with an alarming change of speed and direction. Expect him to put in a few good hits in tomorrow’s games as Australia look to keep their hopes alive after a slow start against Argentina (29-19 defeat) on Monday.
Carlin Isles and Perry Baker (USA)
These are two Sevens specialists who made their name well and truly on the Series circuit. Ex-sprinters the pair of them, Isles is renowned as “the fastest man in rugby” while Baker has the athleticism somewhere in between a racehorse and Usain Bolt. Bot have made their impacts on the Olympics so far on the opening day and it’s likely that they will feature heavily in the USA’s bid to win a second rugby Olympic gold medal, having been the last country to do so (in the 1924 Paris Games) before it returned in 2016.
Caleb Clarke (New Zealand*)
Okay, Caleb Clarke has not played in either of the All Blacks’ matches so far and, barring a disaster for his team-mates, he won’t feature in any of the tournament’s fixtures either. But, as a travelling reserve, Clarke could very well play his role in New Zealand’s quest for gold. A stand-out player in the 15s game for the Blues, Clarke is doubtless a star of the future and he might get his chance in Tokyo. If not, be sure that there will be plenty more opportunities to see him carve rugby fields before long.
*Travelling reserve only
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) July 26, 2021