RUGBY Preview: Sevens Series-leading U.S. can clinch Tokyo 2020 spot this week in London

U.S. star scorer Carlin Isles

Coming into this season, the USA Rugby Eagles – that’s the men’s team’s nickname – had never finished higher than fifth in any season of the World Rugby Sevens Series, which started back in 1999-00.

Now the Eagles are sitting in first place in the 2018-19 Sevens Series with just two rounds to go, including this weekend’s tournament in London (GBR). The standings:

1. 145 United States
2. 142 Fiji
3. 130 New Zealand
4. 121 South Africa
5. 107 England
6. 87 Samoa
7. 80 Australia
8. 79 Argentina

Scoring in each round is 22-19-17-15-13-12-10-10-8-7 for the top 10 places, so if the U.S. can finish ninth or higher, it will clinch a top-four finish and a place in the Tokyo 2020 tournament. So far this season, the U.S. finishes are 2-2-2-2-1-4-2-4, so the chances of a top-nine finish are good. Who saw this coming?

The pools for this week’s London tourney:

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

The U.S. has been led by three men who are in the top 11 in scoring in the 2018-19 Series: top scorer Madison Hughes (243 points), no. 3 Carlin Isles (220) and no. 11 Steve Tomasin (160). With two legs left, Hughes leads Andrew Knewstubb (NZL) and Isles from 243-220-220, with Canada’s Nathan Hirayama next at 193.

Isles is the series leader in tries with 44, well ahead of the 33 for Dan Norton (ENG) and the 32 by Fiji’s Aminiasi Tuimaba. Tomasin is second on the U.S. team in tries with 26.

Look for results here.