The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series returns to Vancouver this weekend, as the best women’s players join the fun in North America.
New Zealand arrive at BC Place on top of both the men’s and women’s standings and will be determined to maintain their grip on those positions amid some intense competition.
Ahead of what promises to be another compelling weekend of action, we give you seven reasons why you should tune in.
Women join the bill
Vancouver has hosted a Series event since 2016, but this weekend will be the first time BC Place welcomes the world’s best male and female players on the same bill of a full tournament.
Defending women’s Series champions Australia will take part in the opening women’s match, when they play Japan at 09:15 local time (GMT-8) on Friday.
Australia won gold at the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford last year and they will hope to repeat that success as they attempt to chase down New Zealand at the top of the women’s standings.
The Black Ferns Sevens have traditionally enjoyed playing in Canada, though, having won four of the six tournaments staged in Langford.
Black Ferns Sevens close in on milestones
The Black Ferns Sevens have built a 12-point lead at the top of the women’s standings with only three tournaments to play, but a seventh Series title is not the only milestone in their sights.
New Zealand need 81 points to become the first women’s team to notch 8,000 Series points. Given they scored 104 in the pool phase alone in Sydney that could well be a record that falls in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, Kelly Brazier is four tries short of a century and needs four appearances at BC Place to become only the 11th woman to make 200 appearances on the circuit.
Can France, USA build on positive results, Australia rebound?
USA’s women continued their consistent run of form in Sydney last month, beating Ireland to win the bronze final.
It means they have finished each of the four tournaments with a medal, but USA are yet to reach the top step of the podium.
France made their first Cup final since 2018 in Sydney, losing to New Zealand but climbing the women’s standings. They will hope to go one better in Vancouver.
By contrast, Australia failed to reach the Cup semi-finals for the first time in almost four years and will be keen to rebound this weekend. A second successive gold medal in Canada would put them right back in contention for the Series title.
Fiji, Great Britain need points in race for women’s Olympic qualification
Despite falling out of the women’s top four, Ireland are still in possession of the fourth and final Olympic ticket as it was Paris 2024 hosts France who took their place.
Ireland, beaten bronze finalists for the third successive tournament in Sydney, currently possess a 16-point cushion to Fiji and Great Britain beneath them, who both have 36 points, with only three tournaments to play.
Fiji and Great Britain, neither of whom have made it past the Cup quarter-finals yet this season, need to break that ceiling in Vancouver, therefore, if they are going to maintain their hopes of automatic Olympic qualification.
Clinical All Blacks Sevens
Much like their female counterparts, the All Blacks Sevens are the team to beat in the 2023 men’s Series and enjoy a 21-point lead at the top of the standings.
One impressive factor in their tournament win in Los Angeles last weekend was just how clinical the men in black were.
New Zealand had possession in their opponents’ 22 on 24 occasions across the two days and scored a try every single time, ending the tournament with 24.
Samoa, Spain and USA have the unenviable task of trying to prevent the All Blacks Sevens from entering their 22 during the pool phase at BC Place.
Can Fiji take final step?
Although the All Blacks Sevens lead the way after six tournaments, it is Fiji who average most points (26.5) and tries (4.2) across the 2023 men’s Series.
However, despite climbing into the top four on the back of their bronze final victory in Los Angeles, Ben Gollings’ side are still looking for their first tournament win of the season.
Following back-to-back third-place finishes in Sydney and Los Angeles, Fiji will hope they can reach a first final since Hong Kong in Vancouver this weekend.
South Africa must tighten up defensively
South Africa’s up-and-down season in the men’s Series continued last weekend as the Blitzboks lost four matches, including against Uruguay during the pool phase.
Their performance dropped them from second to third in the race for the title and Olympic qualification, but Blitzboks fans can take heart from the manner in which they have dealt with similar disappointments this season.
On the two previous occasions the team has been eliminated from the Cup quarter-finals they have gone on to reach the final of the next tournament.
Coach Sandile Ngcobo will know his side need to tighten up defensively if they want to repeat that trick in Vancouver. South Africa missed an average of 7.2 tackles per match in Los Angeles, more than any other team, to take their season average to 6.2 missed tackles, which is the most of any core team.