SIX OLYMPIC SEVENS STARS SET RUGBY WORLD CUP 2021, Is it great news for you? Learn full details here. We look at six players who lit up Tokyo 2020 and could have a similar impact on RWC 2021 in New Zealand.
As the old saying goes, don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened — and that there is a packed schedule of international rugby to look forward to next year! Or something like that…
The women’s Olympic sevens tournament lit up Tokyo Stadium and contributed more than its fair share of enthralling storylines to what was, against all odds, an incredible Games.
But, the wait to see the best players in action again should not be a long one as the World Rugby Sevens Series, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 and the Commonwealth Games are all set to take place in the next year.
Some of the women who wowed fans across the globe in Tokyo last month will also have their sights set on a trip to New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2021, which is now being played in 2022.
Here are six stars of Tokyo 2020 who could make a huge impact on New Zealand 2021 too.
CAROLINE DROUIN (FRANCE)
Les Bleues playmaker Caroline Drouin scored 18 points as France claimed the silver medal at Tokyo Stadium, wearing the number 10 jersey she could also fill at RWC 2021.
Drouin lined up on occasion in the French scrum during the women’s tournament but proved to be adept at the set-piece and also put in some impressive work at the breakdown.
In the gold medal match the 25-year-old displayed her attacking instincts as she exploited a gap in the Black Ferns Sevens defense to score a brilliant solo try.
That is the kind of magic that would help France in New Zealand next year as they attempt to get the better of England, Fiji, and South Africa in Pool C.
STACEY FLUHLER (NEW ZEALAND)
It was Stacey Fluhler’s fifth tournament try, celebrated with her trademark beaming smile, that gave New Zealand what proved to be an unassailable 19-5 half-time lead in the gold medal match.
One of the stars of the World Series in the lead-up to the Games, Fluhler was at her prolific best in Tokyo and scored crucial tries in the medal semi-final as well as the final defeat of France.
The World Rugby Unstoppable made her test debut for the Black Ferns against Canada in June 2015, and went on to play a starring role as New Zealand won Rugby World Cup 2017.
Fuller hasn’t played test rugby since the end of 2018, but with next year’s tournament taking place on home soil she will hope to help New Zealand to a sixth Rugby World Cup title.
JASMINE JOYCE (GREAT BRITAIN/WALES)
Welsh winger Jasmine Joyce was the equivalent of a human cheat code at times for Great Britain at Tokyo Stadium.
Joyce scored a remarkable seven tries in six matches, including a stunning effort against eventual champions New Zealand, and was a big reason why Great Britain made it to the bronze medal match.
The Bristol Bears star also equaled the Olympic record for a number of multiple try-scoring matches at a single Games (three) when she outstripped the France defense to touch down twice in the medal semi-final.
Great Britain was not able to secure a medal in Tokyo, but Joyce’s performances proved that if Wales can give her enough space to exploit then she will cause defenses problems at RWC 2021.
ALOWESI NAKOCI (FIJI)
A replacement in Fiji’s opening two matches at Tokyo Stadium, Alowesi Nakoci scored a try on her first Olympic start, against Brazil, and became one of the bronze medallists’ most important performers thereafter.
Naki set the tone for the impressive 14-12 defeat of the defending champions in the medal quarter-finals as she strode through a gap in the Australian defense to score the opening try of the match.
Great Britain wasn’t able to contain the tall and skillful back in the bronze medal match and Nakoci scored twice, the second a breakaway effort that started inside her own 22.
Minutes earlier she had put in a try-saving tackle on Joyce, a skill she may well have mastered as a full-back in 15s. In her last appearance in test rugby, Nakoci scored a brace of tries to help the Fijiana beat Samoa 41-13 and qualify for a first Rugby World Cup.
KRIS THOMAS (USA)
USA co-captain Kris Thomas scored the quickest try of Tokyo 2020 when she touched down after just seven seconds of her side’s fifth-place semi-final against China.
It was the first of two tries for Thomas in the 33-14 victory and helped the USA on their way to a sixth-place finish at Tokyo Stadium.
Her second score against China was a length of the field effort and brought to mind her stunning finish against England at RWC 2017.
Thomas scored four tries in five matches in Ireland, and USA coach Rob Cain will hope she can maintain her prolific form on the road to New Zealand.
PORTIA WOODMAN (NEW ZEALAND)
Following a career-threatening run of injuries, Portia Woodman proved she was back to her very best by scoring five tries in Tokyo to help New Zealand to a first Olympic sevens title.
Woodman displayed her speed to score a brace in the medal quarter-final against the Russian Olympic Committee team and then used her power to touch down a crucial try under the posts in the semi-final against Fiji.
The winger had spoken during the tournament about wanting to banish the painful memories of losing the gold medal match to Australia at Rio 2016, and now that has been achieved she can focus on securing yet more silverware in 2022.
Woodman touched down 13 times — including the World Rugby Women’s 15s Try of the Decade — as the Black Ferns won RWC 2017, and New Zealand fans will hope she can add a few more to that mammoth tally on home soil.