Spanish rugby celebrate back in 2016 as both their men and women’s teams took home the last tickets to the first ever rugby Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
The teams dramatic finish five years ago might be stumped by this years repechage as three teams will be given a chance to fly to Tokyo.
Two women’s tickets and one for the men are going to be up for grabs this weekend, and unlike back in 2016, both competitions will be played in the same weekend and venue.
In 2016 the Spanish men kept fans and fellow players on the edge of their seats as they fought for the final ticket against the Samoan 7s team. Spain only secured the win after a try at the very last play was awarded. The Spanish women’s 7s then played the week after and beat the Russian women in an equally compelling showdown.
Pablo Feijoo was the men’s captain and was dramatically interview post match after their historic win is now the national team coach. No doubt that this weekend will be a dramatic ”Super Sunday” at the French Riviera as emotions are high.
“There isn’t a final in the women’s competition, there are two qualifying finals which are effectively semis in a normal event,” explained Rupert Cox for World Rugby.
“So the last three games on Sunday are the two women’s qualifying finals and the men’s qualifying final, so for all of those games, the winner will go through to the Olympics. It should be an amazing finish, a better finish than 2016, I think, if anything. It’s going to be amazing in terms of handing out the golden tickets.”
While the favorites for the men’s competition are France and Ireland and France and Russia for the women’s, Cox believes from his experience that anything can happen at the tournament. Specially when the prize on the win is a chance to represent their country for the Olympic Games.
“Canada were one of the favorites coming in but they were beaten in pool play by Germany and then lost in the quarter-finals to Russia,” he recalled.
“Samoa (the top seeds) lost to Ireland in pool play and were almost beaten by Germany in the semi-finals, so it could have easily been a Spain v Germany final.
“Samoa threw it away in the final, they should have won it. It was pretty extraordinary how Spain came back.”
It was a double celebration as the Los Leonas took home the tickets to Rio a week later. Their 19-13 victory over their Russian women was a match both teams will never forget.
The Spanish women reached the finals of the last repechage without conceding a single try, both teams put on a deserving finals match. Russia will be back again this weekend to try and win their first ever Olympic seat, no doubt, aiming for the big win this year.
Although Spain made it to the Olympics in 2016, they will not be contenders in Monaco this weekend nor have they already qualified for the Olympic Games.
The women’s competition will feature Argentina, Colombia, France, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa and Tunisia. The men’s tournament will involve Chile, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Samoa, Tonga, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
“I think it will be really hard for the non-European sides to do anything extraordinary because of the hoops they have had to jump through to get here,” said Cox.
“I think it is extraordinary World Rugby have put all this together, to get all these teams here and a) everyone is COVID-free, touch wood and b) teams from every continent in the world are there, which is incredible.”