RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Aug 8 – The eagerly awaited men’s rugby sevens makes its debut on Tuesday at the Rio Olympic Games in an event where the national men’s team, Kenya Sevens will be seeking to make a statement.
Here are the top five players to watch headlined by Kenya sevens winger and all-time Rugby Sevens World Series top try scorer Collins Injera.
COLLINS INJERA (KEN)
Injera is the all-time leading try scorer on the World Rugby Sevens Series with 235 after 10 seasons.
Despite being an experienced head in the world series, it was only back in May that Injera lifted his first ever Cup silverware as Kenya made history with a win in Singapore.
His two tries in the first half of the final against Fiji put the momentum firmly with Kenya and again highlighted Injera’s big-game mentality, a crucial asset heading into the Olympic Games.
Experience aside, Injera is an all-rounder, as strong in defence as he is lethal in attack. If his team-mates gel, Kenya will be eyeing a podium finish.
SONNY BILL WILLIAMS (NZL)
‘SBW’ is one of the few players to have starred in the 15s game and successfully transition to the abbreviated form.
While World Rugby president Bill Beaumont has insisted that sevens didn’t need big-name players from 15s, but there can be no denying the two-time World Cup winner is a massive draw.
And he is not in the All Blacks squad as a token, Williams having spent a year playing sevens to hone his skills and fitness in a bid to make the Olympics.
His physicality and unmatched off-loading ability make Williams a dangerous player for any opponents.
CARLIN ISLES (USA)
If things had gone to plan, the Olympic Games might have witnessed a duel between the Isles, now the fastest man in rugby, and the fastest man on the planet.
But instead of lining up against Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt in Rio de Janeiro, Isles will be going for gold with a rugby ball.
The flying winger is one of the most potent weapons in the United States’ sevens squad, with a respectable personal best of 10.12sec for the 100m, a time that would have got him into the semi-finals of the 2012 Games.
His on-field speed is something to behold and in tandem with the equally fleet-footed Perry Baker — the second highest try-scorer for the 2015-16 Sevens Series with 48 — the US team has a strikeforce that can damage, depending on the forwards and playmakers securing and keeping enough ball.
OSEA KOLINISAU (FIJI)
Fiji are aiming for a first ever Olympic medal. After winning the Sevens Series for the second consecutive year, skipper Kolinisau and his team-mates will have the weight of the South Seas island on their shoulders when they take to the pitch in search of history.
After carrying the Fijian flag at the opening ceremony, Kolinisau was the top tackler on the 2015-16 series with 128, and is one of only a few Fijian players who regularly plays almost every minute of every match during a tournament.
Aside from his strong defence, he is a potent attacker in a team that, on their day, can set any tournament alight.
VIRIMI VAKATAWA (FRA)
Like Sonny Bill, Vakatawa has 15s experience, plucked by Guy Noves for the opening two matches of last season’s Six Nations.
The Fijian-born winger, under a sevens contract with the French federation, did not embarrass himself, but returned to star on the sevens stage.
A stepper capable of breaking defensive lines, Vakatawa also has incredibly good handling skills, thriving off his play-making team-mate Terry Bouhraoua.