RUGBY Preview: Fiji and U.S. play for men’s Sevens Series title this weekend in Paris

Team captains pose with the World Rugby Sevens Series trophy in Paris (Photo: World Rugby)

The Sevens Series goal for the U.S. Eagles this season was to finish in the top four – which they had never done – and qualify for the Tokyo 2020 tournament.

Mission accomplished. But now there is the opportunity to play for more.

Going into the final tournament of the Sevens Series season in Paris, the U.S. also has the opportunity to win the 2018-19 series, capping its best-ever campaign. The standings:

1. 164 Fiji
2. 162 United States
3. 143 New Zealand
4. 131 South Africa
5. 109 England
6. 99 Australia
7. 95 Samoa
8. 86 France

Scoring is 22-19-17-15 for the top four places, so a tie is a possibility. The first tie-breaker is “the Team which has the best difference between points scored for and points scored against in all the Series Matches.” (Sorry, World Rugby does not post the stats on that so far.)

The pools for this weekend’s play in Paris:

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

If both the U.S. and Fiji win their groups and quarterfinal games, the two will meet in the semifinals. So far, the U.S. has had great success except against Fiji, with an 0-6 playoff record this season. By round:

1: 0-1 Dubai ~ 14-24 loss in the quarterfinals
2: 0-2 Cape Town ~ 15-29 loss in the final
3: 0-3 Hamilton ~ 0-38 loss in the final
4. 0-3 Sydney ~ did not play
5: 0-3 Las Vegas ~ did not play
6: 0-4 Vancouver ~ 14-24 loss for third place
7: 0-5 Hong Kong ~ 19-28 loss in the semifinals
8: 0-5 Singapore ~ did not play
9: 0-6 London ~ 10-17 loss in the semifinals

In the 19 prior seasons of the Sevens Series, Fiji has won three titles – in 2006-15-16 – and collected six silver medals and five third-place finishes. The U.S. has never been better than fifth, back in 2017. Fiji, the U.S. and New Zealand have clinched 2020 Olympic sports and South Africa will clinch by simply playing this weekend.

New Zealand’s Andrew Knewstubb re-took the scoring lead in the 2018-19 series with 266 points, just ahead of Madison Hughes of the U.S. (263), with American Carlin Isles (235) third. Isles leads the series in tries with 47, well ahead of Fiji’s Aminiasi Tuimaba and England’s Dan Norton, who both have 39.

Look for results here.