The All Blacks: A nation practically synonymous with rugby, New Zealand experienced disappointment at the first-ever rugby sevens Olympic tournament with a quarterfinal exit for the men and a heartbreaking loss in the gold medal game for the women. However, at the next major competition, the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens held in San Francisco, California, New Zealand lifted both trophies. Led by stars Tim Mikkelson and Portia Woodman, expect the All Blacks to be among the heavy favorites for men’s and women’s gold in Tokyo.
The Flying Fijians: Fiji, the small island in the South Pacific with a population of less than 1 million, stole the show in the Rio men’s tournament to win the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. Since Rio, the rugby-obsessed island nation has backed up its Olympic success, finishing top three in each of the last four annual World Rugby Sevens Series, including a first-place finish in 2019.
The Wallaroos: Australia, the defending Olympic champions in the women’s tournament, has held steady since Rio. The Wallaroos have finished top two in three of the last four World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, including a title in 2017-18.
Who’s stepped up
The Eagles: In Rio, USA Rugby failed to make much of an impression as neither team recorded a single point in the knockout rounds. However, the last five years have seen the Eagles come into their own in both the men’s and women’s game. Led by Naya Tapper and Alev Kelter on the women’s side and Madison Hughes, Perry Baker and “the fastest man in rugby,” Carlin Isles, on the men’s side, the United States finished as runners up in the both the World Rugby Sevens Series and World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in 2018-19. Team USA is a dark horse medal contender in both genders for Tokyo.