7 Players Who will Shine in Brazil
The return of rugby to the Olympic Games is only a few weeks away. The teams have been selected, the groups are known and players are arriving to train and adjust to the climate before the opening ceremony. Sevens has grown rapidly in popularity across the world (resulting in it’s inclusion in the Olympics) becoming the main code of rugby in some parts of the globe. Now the best Sevens players will battle it out in Brazil and a nation will be given a rugby gold medal for the first time since 1924.
We’ve examined the Men’s line-ups for the competition and selected 7 players we think it’s worth paying special attention to. Each is likely to offer something unique when they compete for Olympic glory.
1. Sonny Bill Williams (NZL)
Humble and immensely talented, Sonny Bill Williams has played at the top level of Rugby Union and League (As well as having a good boxing record). Now having changed his focus to Sevens, the enigmatic star has made it onto the New Zealand Olympic team. His experience and work ethic could play a major role in New Zealand’s quest for Gold.
2. Cecil Afrika (RSA)
With over 1,000 points scored for the South Africa Sevens team, Cecil Afrika is one of the most experienced Sevens players on the planet. While there’s more tries in Sevens than in XVs, the boot of the Flyhalf is still very important for keeping your scoreboard ticking. It may well be the boot of Cecil Afrika that makes the difference in this tournament.
3. Dan Norton (GB)
One of the top England try scorers in a Sevens World Series, Dan Norton will be hoping to put those try scoring skills to good use in Rio. It’s no surprise Norton racks up the tries with a 40m personal best of just 4.78 seconds. We think Norton will make a big impact in Rio and can’t wait to see him add to his try count.
4. Carlin Isles (USA)
One of the best known names in Sevens, Carlin Isles has become famous for his incredible speed in the Sevens scene. The USA are technically the reigning champions of rugby at the Olympics, having won when XVs was still included in the sporting event. Isles will play a crucial role when the USA Sevens team take to the field to defend that title.
5. Ed Jenkins (AUS)
The Captain for the Australian Sevens team, Ed Jenkins is not only one of the more experienced Sevens players coming from Australia he’s also one of their best. He personifies the kind of athlete it takes to play Sevens at the top level: Fast, tough, high endurance and mentally strong. Expect to see Jenkins leading by example in Rio.
6. Leone Nakarawa (FIJ)
Fiji are currently the best nation in the world at Rugby Sevens. It’s thanks to players like Leone Nakarawa, (who many Scottish fans will know from his excellent time at Glasgow Warriors) that Fiji seem to be a cut above the rest when it comes to Sevens.
While it initially seemed unlikely that a Rugby World Cup star forward would be ready for the Rio Olympics, Nakarawa has worked tirelessly to make sure he’s prepared for the tournament. Now scoring above 18 in the Fitness Test, Nakarawa not only has the endurance for Sevens but has maintained his devastating power. He’ll be a wrecking ball in Rio.
7. Juan Imhoff (ARG)
Juan Imhoff is another big name XV player that has made the transition to Sevens for the Olympics. While other XV stars on this list have gained a fair amount of Sevens experience over the last year, Imhoff remains a bit of a wild card. However, as one of the most experienced players in Argentinas XVs squad, Imhoff has big stage experience and is positionally flexible. He could be a breakout Sevens star in this tournament.