Tomorrow marks the start of the Sevens World Series and the qualification process for Team GB on their road to Rio 2016.
Ahead of the opening weekend of action on Australia’s Gold Coast, we preview the series, rugby’s history in the Olympics and what’s required to secure a spot as sevens makes its debut at the Games.
What is the Sevens World Series?
Organised by the International Rugby Board (IRB), the men’s series runs from October 11 to May 17 as they world’s top sevens sides battle it out for World Series points at each of the nine rounds.
Winners of the Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield are crowned at each location and varying points are awarded dependant on a side’s final position.
Beginning in Australia this weekend, the teams will move onto Dubai and South Africa this year before competing in New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong and Japan before concluding in Britain at Glasgow and then London in May 2015.
The women’s series kicks off in Dubai on December 4 before travelling to Brazil, USA, Canada, London and finally the Netherlands on May 22-23.
How do Team GB qualify for Rio 2016?
Each country that finishes in the top four spots of both the men’s and women’s series once the final round is complete will secure a place at Rio 2016.
In July this year, the British Unions nominated England to be the lead side for Team GB’s men’s and women’s qualification campaign and will attempt to secure a spot on behalf of all the Home Nations.
As a result, if England were to finish fourth or better after the London Sevens (men) or Netherlands Sevens (women) next year, a British quota spot for Rio would be confirmed.
Despite England’s nomination, the eventual squad for the Games will be drawn using players from all three nations; England, Scotland and Wales.
If needed, there will be further opportunities to qualify at the 2015 European Regional Championship and then at a final World Repechage event will decide the remaining Rio spot.
Rugby Union at the Olympic Games
Despite sevens making its debut as an Olympic sport in Rio, it not the first time the Games will host a form of rugby union.
A men’s event for the wider 15-a-side form was held in four of the first seven Games, starting at the Paris Olympics in 1900 before featuring at London 1908, Antwerp 1920 and Paris again in 1924.
Did you know: The USA are the most successful rugby nation in Olympic history with two gold medals to their name having defeated France for victory in both the 1920 and 1924 Olympics.
Great Britain have won two silver medals – at Paris 1900 and London 1908.
How to follow the Sevens World Series
Tomorrow’s opening day of the series will be live on Sky Sports from 6am and Sunday’s finals will be shown from the same time. Each subsequent round will also be televised.
You can also follow each of the Home Nations on Twitter (England, Scotland, Wales) as well the IRB Sevens account, who will cover all the Gold Coast action.