USA aim to seal 2020 Olympic qualification at Singapore Sevens

By Juhanita Jiman

The United States are aiming to seal their place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with another strong performance in Singapore, with the Eagles leading the 10-leg HSBC World Sevens Series after seven tournaments.

The Americans reached five straight finals, winning in their home event in Las Vegas and last weekend finished third at the Hong Kong Sevens despite losing twice in the pool phase. Skipper Madison Hughes told World Rugby that confidence is running high in the US camp.

“We’ve got lots of confidence. We’ve just been going tournament by tournament and doing as well as we can each time. It’s another tough pool here so we will have to play our best,” said Hughes.

“Olympic qualification would mean so much. That was our big goal coming in to this season, we want to get top four and get that Olympic qualification. It was a lofty goal at the time but now we’re really close to it.

“It’s a big tournament and we would love to qualify here but if not here, we will just keep pushing and doing everything we can to get that Olympic qualification.”

The top four teams in the 2018-19 series qualify automatically for the Tokyo Games with those falling outside needing to go through regional qualifiers.

The USA lead the standings with 130 points with Fiji moving up to second on 123 after their victory in Hong Kong last weekend. New Zealand are third on 118 with South Africa occupying the final Olympic spot on 99. England are fifth on 90.

Fiji are aiming to repeat their feat of back-to-back triumphs, which they achieved last year.

England captain Tom Mitchell said the side were hoping to catch South Africa.

“With three rounds to go the opportunities are there for us and were excited about the challenge, but we know it’s not an easy one. We’re going to do all we can do and see what happens by the end of the season,” said Mitchell.

At the bottom end of the series standings the competition is equally intense as Wales, Japan and Kenya battle to avoid relegation with only three points separating the bottom three teams.

Kenya Captain Jeffrey Oluoch said: “I’m looking forward to this weekend’s competition and hope it is going to be a great one for us. We are currently 13th in the table and close to the other teams so we need to bag maximum points as much as we can this weekend and we’re aiming for the quarter-finals to stretch the margin from the other teams.

“There is a lot of excitement in the camp, training has been good, the boys are psyched up and have high hopes for this weekend.”

The relegated team will be replaced by Ireland who secured their place on next year’s series in style by comprehensively winning the qualifier event in Hong Kong last weekend. The beaten qualifier finalists Hong Kong are the invitational team in Singapore.

The pool draw sees reigning Singapore title holders Fiji face South Africa, Scotland and Canada in Pool A. In Pool B France will be looking to continue their fine form following two consecutive cup final appearances and are up against Argentina, Australia and Hong Kong. Pool C sees USA take on England, Kenya and Wales, while in Pool D third placed New Zealand are drawn with Samoa, Japan and Spain.