In an historic first for the Rugby World Cup, 18
Olympians from nine nations are set to take to the field at Japan
2019, the first Rugby World Cup to be held in Asia, which begins
on Friday when hosts Japan take on Russia at Tokyo Stadium.
Three years ago in Brazil, rugby sevens made an explosive
debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with the fast-paced format thrilling fans as Fiji steamrolled their way to gold, beating
Great Britain 43-7 in the final.
The 18 Olympians have all
successfully made the switch from playing sevens at the Rio 2016
Olympic Games to be selected for Rugby World Cup 2019, the
showpiece event in the 15s game.
The list of Olympians
contains eight medallists including Four Fijians - Leone Nakarawa,
Viliame Mata, Josua Tuisova and Semi Kunatani Ė the first three of
which scored tries in the gold medal match to claim Olympic glory
Two Great Britain silver medallists Ruaridh
McConnochie and James Davies, who will represent England and Wales
respectively at Japan 2019, and bronze medallists Chelsin Kolbe
and Kwagga Smith from South Africa complete the line-up of Olympic
medal winners in Japan.
Also on the roster of Olympians is
New Zealandís Rugby World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams
(pictured), and All
Blacks teammate Reiko Ione who was named World Rugby Breakthrough
Player of the Year in 2017.
Host nation Japan include
three Olympians from the team who finished an impressive fourth at
Rio 2016 and Argentina, France and the USA also include Olympians
in their Rugby World Cup squads.
Fiji captain Leone
Nakarawa is hoping that new stars such as Josua Tuisova and Semi
Kunatani Ė who are both competing at their first Rugby World Cup Ė
will add a new potency to their play.
"15s is more about
power and endurance, so repeatedly getting tackled and getting up
again," said Nakarawa who will be competing at his third Rugby
World Cup. "But the fitness and strength you get from sevens
really helps. Because of that, you never feel tired out there."
Players have made the switch from sevens to the 15s game in
the past, but the Fijian Olympians are hoping that the experience
they have gained from winning gold on the worldís biggest sporting
stage will help them surpass their best ever performance at the
Rugby World Cup. Olympian Viliame Mata said that it could perhaps
enable them to progress beyond the quarter-finals for the first
time in their history.
"We want to go as far as we can,"
said Mata. "Weíre aiming for the final. My main goal is to create
history in Japan for the Fiji rugby team. There are challenges
going from sevens to 15s, you donít have as much space so itís
hard to get through the forward line, but it does give you pace,
flexibility and agility. Iím trying to get a new title for my
While the Fijians are dreaming of reaching
new heights, they arenít the only team looking to draw on medal
winning experience from Rio 2016. Ruaridh McConnochie, who picked
up silver in Rio as part of a Great Britain team, believes the
experience will help him deal with the stresses that often come
with a major tournament.
"The Olympics was incredible and I
never thought I would be here in a national 15s side at the Rugby
World Cup. Going into Rio we knew it would be pretty chaotic," he
said. "It is good to embrace that chaos and carnage and know that
it is not always going to be perfect and it is how you react and
Commenting on Rio 2016 South Africa star
Cheslin Kolbe said: "The Olympics is one of the biggest
competitions that an athlete can perform at. Getting that
opportunity to represent South Africa at the Olympics was really
Looking ahead to Japan 2019 he added: "The World
Cup is probably the competition you want to achieve and play at.
Just seeing, media-wise, and the supporters that come out to
training, itís really crazy. I think each day is different, and
there is a lot more energy added into a training or people
supporting you from outside. Both competitions are really up
Rugby sevens is set to make its second appearance
on the Olympic Games programme at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in
July and August next year with qualification already well under
Rio 2016 provided a captivating showcase for the
sport that saw its fan-base increase by almost 17 million in six
key territories, with Tokyo 2020 expected to unearth an estimated
30 million new fans worldwide (Nielsen research) it is an exciting
year ahead of rugby in Japan.
Pictures from 2019 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong
Pictures from 2018 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens,
Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens,
Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong
Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015,
Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong
Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015,
Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013,
of Chartis Cup 2012 and
Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.
Rugby World Cup,