RUGBY Preview: Las Vegas hosts men’s Sevens Series with U.S. tied for first

U.S. rugby scoring star Madison Hughes

An banner season for the USA Eagles reaches a critical point this weekend at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the fifth stop of the 10-leg World Rugby Sevens Series.

Winners of the Sevens Series tournament in Las Vegas last year – its first in the Las Vegas stop that began in 2004 – the U.S. could take the lead in the seasonal standings with a victory this weekend, after four straight runner-up finishes. The standings:

1. 76 Fiji
2. 76 United States
3. 72 Fiji
4. 57 South Africa
5. 55 England

The U.S. has been amazing, having never been higher than fifth place in the seasonal standings since the men’s Sevens Series began back in the 1999-2000 season. The Eagles were fifth in 2016-17 and sixth in 2014-15, 2015-16 and last season.

A top-four finish in the seasonal standings this time will qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, so a lot is on the line. The pools for Las Vegas:

Pool A: New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Samoa
Pool B: United States, France, Argentina, Kenya
Pool C: England, South Africa, Japan, Chile
Pool D: Fiji, Australia, Wales, Scotland

The four tournaments held so far have been won by New Zealand (twice) and Fiji (twice) and the U.S. really hasn’t been close. But the U.S. did win in Las Vegas last year, its first tournament title since May of 2015.

As the season reaches halfway in Las Vegas, New Zealand’s Andrew Knewstubb continues as the scoring leader with 146 points, with Madison Hughes of the U.S. second at 132 and John Porch (AUS) third at 115. Two other U.S. players are in the top 10, with Stephen Tomasin seventh (99) and Carlin Isles tenth (90).

Look for results and standings here.