Rugby fans are in for a free feast of high quality and high stakes sevens when the Oceania Sevens Championship kicks off in Auckland in four weeks.
The two day event running over the weekend of 14 and 15 November at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere (Auckland) is a critical Olympic qualifying tournament. The winning men's and women's teams will book places at Rio de Janiero, Brazil in August next year when sevens debuts on sport's greatest stage.
With Fiji and New Zealand men and Australia and New Zealand women already qualified for Rio 2016, there is huge interest building to see who will join them. The draw comprises eight men's teams and five women's teams.
“The added intensity that automatic qualification for Rio adds to this year's tournaments, together with the unpredictability of recent Oceania Sevens Championships, means we're expecting the most exciting Championship yet,” said William Glenwright, General Manager, Asia and Oceania Rugby, World Rugby.
"The Oceania region has a rich and proud tradition of sevens rugby and the fact that four teams have automatically qualified for Rio underscores that.”
All Blacks Sevens in action
The All Blacks Sevens are not participating in the championship. However, the squad will take part in training matches over both tournament days. Coach Gordon Tietjens will be using the games to finalise the squad for the 2015/16 season with a firm eye on selecting the team that will take part in the first World Series tournament of the new season in Dubai in early December.
New Zealand Rugby is hoping fans make the most of Oceania Sevens.
“Aucklanders rarely get a chance to see top sevens players in action so this is a great opportunity to get up close to sevens at its best and for free,” said Neil Sorensen, New Zealand Rugby’s General Manager of Rugby. “The stakes are really high with teams from Oceania vying for Olympic places so the rugby on show will be awesome.”
The Oceania Sevens Championship is being staged with the support of New Zealand Rugby and Auckland Rugby on behalf of Oceania Rugby.
"Thanks to New Zealand Rugby and Auckland Rugby Union for hosting this year’s all important Championship,” said Glenwright. “We can't wait for what will no doubt be a fantastic tournament in the City of Sails.”
This is the first time New Zealand has hosted Oceania Sevens.
“With direct qualification to Rio 2016 up for grabs, there’s tremendous excitement and anticipation amongst all the participating teams, and we're looking forward to the most competitive Oceania Sevens Championship yet,” said Michael Groom, Tournament Director Oceania Rugby.
Oceania Sevens Championship - background
Men: Australia, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, America Samoa, Nauru, Solomon Islands
Women: Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Tonga
Note: the Championship draw will be released shortly.
The winning men’s and women’s teams automatically qualify for Rio 2016 where 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will take part. The final qualification places for a men’s and women’s team will be contested at a Final Qualification Tournament expected to take place in June next year. The second and third placed men's and women's teams from the Oceania Championship will win places to compete in that tournament.