Sixteen international men’s teams will compete across two matchdays this weekend in the first of two World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series tournaments to be hosted in South America over the next fortnight.
The opening tournament takes place on Saturday and Sunday in Viña del Mar in Chile, before teams travel to the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, for the next tournament, on 22-23 February.
This new and exciting series was developed to boost sevens’ growth across the globe, focusing on the development of the next generation of sevens stars via emerging sevens nations.
“We are heading into a couple of exciting weekends,” says Felipe Brangier, the experienced Chilean Sevens captain. “Playing at home, in front of our fans is something we must use to our benefit, more so as we have huge goals and want to be competitive.
“Our ultimate goal is to be in the final, and we are convinced that we can do it.”
The hosts will open their campaign in Pool D against Mexico followed by games against Brazil and then Zimbabwe, the final act of the opening day’s 24-game schedule.
Having represented South America in all the recent World Rugby Sevens Series qualifiers, Brangier is well aware of the competition ahead. “This new Challenger Series is a great opportunity to have more games and time to develop a team before the big decider,” he said.
The sixteen competing teams are divided into four pools, with top two in each pool advancing to the quarter-final stage; the rest will compete for places nine to 16.
Hong Kong, Colombia, Jamaica and Papua New Guinea will play in Pool B, with Germany, Italy, Paraguay and Uganda lining up in Pool C.
Japan, a core team on the World Rugby Sevens Series as recently as 2019 and Olympic host nation, are joined by Uruguay, Portugal and Tonga in Pool A.
One of Japan’s most experienced players is Rio 2016 Olympian Lote Tuqiri. “While our main target is the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, this Challenger Series gives us the chance of promotion to the World Rugby Sevens Series, ” he said.
“Playing in four World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments this season as an invitational team has been great preparation for these two tournaments in South America.”
With Japanese rugby at an all-time high after a successful Rugby World Cup 2019, the Olympic Games is an exciting target for Tuqiri and his teammates and he says Japan are aiming to medal this time around.
“Playing at home will be an exciting challenge for us,” he said. “We finished fourth in Rio four years ago, so our motivation and hunger will certainly be there. The home crowd will certainly give us a boost, especially after Rugby World Cup.”
The next men’s tournament will take place in tournament in Montevideo, Uruguay on 22-23 February before the recently announced women’s competition is held in Stellenbosch, South Africa on 28-29 March.