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Top rugby stories to watch in Rio

Alev Kelter
NBC

Top rugby stories to watch in Rio

Rugby sevens will be played at the Olympics for the first time

Who will win the first Olympic rugby sevens match?

The first-ever Olympic women’s rugby sevens match will be France vs. Spain on Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. ET. France will be favored after finishing fifth during the 2015-2016 World Rugby Sevens Series season, while Spain was ninth. 

Three days later, Australia and France will play the first-ever Olympic men’s rugby sevens match. Australia finished fourth during the 2015-2016 World Rugby Sevens Series, seven spots ahead of France. 

Who will win the first rugby sevens women’s title?

New Zealand won three consecutive World Rugby Women's Sevens Series titles before Australia won the most recent championship. Canada is also a threat, led by Ghislaine Landry, who scored more points than any other player during the 2015-2016 season. 

Who will win the first rugby sevens men’s title?

Fiji won the two most recent World Rugby Sevens Series titles. Before that, New Zealand won 12 of the previous 16 championships. South Africa has been the runner up the last four seasons. 

Rugby 101

Learn more about rugby:

Basics | Competition format | Glossary | Olympic history | Qualification | Rules | Venue

Emergence of U.S men

The U.S. is not a traditional rugby nation, but three big wins in 2015 caught the attention of the rugby community. In May 2015, the U.S. men won their first World Rugby Sevens Series tournament. A month later, they qualified for the Olympics by winning the North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Sevens Championship. Then in December 2015, the U.S. men beat New Zealand, a rugby powerhouse, for the first time in a World Rugby Sevens Series match.

Posnanski: USA Rugby's ragtag cast of characters

With an NFL safety and a London-born captain, the U.S. has a unique group of athletes ready to challenge rugby's traditional powers

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Dominance of Fiji

Fiji has never won an Olympic medal in any sport, but that could change in 2016. The country has won the last two World Rugby Sevens Series titles. 

Fiji has such a strong team that former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne failed to make the team.

Former 49ers RB Jarryd Hayne not selected for Fiji Olympic rugby team

Jarryd Hayne announced the news in a Facebook post.

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