Fiji ended New Zealand’s four series winning streak by winning the overall 2014-15 Rugby Sevens World Series title with an impressive second half where they won three out of the last five titles. The Rugby Sevens World Series is a set of nine rugby seven tournaments held around the world where 15 core teams and 1 invited team compete for points and for the first time Olympic qualifying. The first event started on October 11th 2014 and the last one ended on May 17th 2015. The top 4 teams in the overall rankings qualified to the Olympics.
By the end of the third tournament South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand were in the top 3 of the points table where they stayed in some order for the rest of the series. To the three teams it became less about qualifying to the Olympics and more about winning the overall title. In fact the three teams built such a lead over the rest of the field that all three teams qualified to the Olympics during the eighth leg in Scotland.
The fourth and final Olympic spot eventually came down between Australia and England whom was designated the nation to qualify Great Britain to the Olympics. The two nations traded leads multiple times, but the main turning point happened in the seventh event held in Japan. At that point Australia had built a modest six point lead, but for the first and only time in the series they failed to reach the quarterfinals and to make things worse for Australia it was also the same event where England won its only title. This caused a swing of 15 points turning a six point lead into a nine point deficit. For the remaining two legs England played well enough to qualify by virtue of its quarterfinal appearance in the final leg where they were hosts.
Going into the final leg in England Fiji was on top of the leaderboard with a lead of five over South Africa and New Zealand was a further three points back. All three teams reached the quarterfinals as expected, but South Africa had a bit of a stumble as they lost to surprise winners United States meaning one of the quarterfinals match ended up being Fiji vs. South Africa. The loser of the match would be eliminated from the World Series title race. The match also had implication for New Zealand as they required Fiji to lose in the quarterfinals for them to have any chance at winning the title.
In the match Fiji went to a 12-0 lead by the half with trys from Savenaca Rawaca and Captain Osea Kolinisau, but South Africa was not finished yet as Chris Dry made it 12-7 early in the second. That was responded by a second try from Savenaca Rawaca and some good defending as Fiji went to win the match 19-7 and the overall title.
Not everything was joyful as Japan, being the lowest ranked core team was officially demoted. The loss of rugby’s only top Asian team hurts their image of the sport being popular around the world, but there is no doubt they will be one of the strongest team to attempt to become a core team next year. Japan was replaced with Russia whom won a qualifying tournament held in Hong Kong.
With two Oceania teams already qualified things become a bit less cluttered for that continent as now only Australia and Samoa remain as core teams. Next up in terms of qualifiers for men’s rugby sevens is the continental qualification where one team qualifies from each continent, after that the remaining top teams will meet for one more final qualifier.
Top 10 Standing
- Fiji – 164
- South Africa – 154
- New Zealand – 152
- England – 132
- Australia – 120
- United States – 108
- Scotland – 89
- Argentina – 80
- Canada – 67
- Samoa – 64
Quotas by Nation
- Fiji – 1
- Great Britain – 1
- New Zealand – 1
- South Africa – 1
World Rugby. 2014-15 Sevens World Series Rankings. Access on May 17 2015.