The popularity that rugby sevens enjoyed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio was unparalleled. It could be argued that no other sport enjoyed the same success during the month-long competition, and that has helped the sport increase the amount of fans that it has been able to attract to the HSBC World Sevens Series.
Many followers of the sport will be hoping that this trend will continue after the next Olympic games this year, but it will have lightyears to go before it can claim the same audiences that are boasted by the American Super Bowl odds.
However, if there are big stories to come out of the 2020 games like there was in the 2016 instalment, then fans can begin to dream. But, which sides will be the leading hopefuls for the men’s gold medal?
The reigning Olympic champions will be hoping that they can quickly add a second Olympic gold medal to go with the first one they won back in 2016. That final success was able to captivate the entire country, and they have followed that up with a string of excellent displays in the World Series. In the first competition this season in Dubai, they beat Japan and France, before eventually finishing in 9th place by beating Canada.
That was improved in the Cape Town Sevens where they beat the USA and Ireland, before losing in the bronze medal match against France. Much of their chances will depend on Waisea Nacuqu, who has led the team in terms of points scored and tries in the World Series this season.
It is hard to talk about any code of rugby without mentioning the All Blacks, and once again they will be a force in the sevens if their series form to this date is anything to go by.
They beat Wales, the USA and England in the Dubai sevens before falling to South Africa in the final of the event. That 15-0 defeat was a disappointing end to what was a brilliant weekend of performances for New Zealand.
They were able to go one better in Cape Town, as they avenged that final defeat by beating South Africa 7-5 in the final. On their way to that final, they managed to see off Fiji, Wales and Argentina. Andrew Knewstubb has been in excellent form this season for New Zealand as he has scored 63 points and scored seven tries. Regan Ware has also matched that tally of seven tries, which shows teams that come up against New Zealand have to watch out for a host of high-quality players.
Team GB won the Olympic silver in Rio, and they will once again be a force to be reckoned with. That defeat against Fiji has only heightened the interest in Sevens in the United Kingdom, with the Nielson report showing that there were increased viewings for the sport during the competition.
If their series form is to go by this season, then they are showing signs that they can once again reach the final in Tokyo. The best leg of their series so far came in Dubai, where they won the bronze medal. They saw off Spain and Kenya to set up a knockout tie with France, before beating Samoa in the bronze final.
Their form took a bit of a hit in Cape Town, as they lost to Scotland and France in the pool stage, before being beaten by the USA in the match for ninth place. That showing means that they are only sitting in fifth in the standings at this early stage, but they will be a team to watch.