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China’s rugby sevens teams have one last shot at Olympic qualification

Both the women’s and men’s teams are gearing up for their respective repechage tournaments, taking place in Monaco later this month
  • The men’s assistant coach says that Chinese players’ innate ‘speed and agility’ can be advantageous against the physicality of traditional rugby playing nations

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China’s women’s and men’s rugby sevens teams are fighting for their chance to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which take place in July and August. In the same position are the two teams from Hong Kong, which competes separately in the Olympics although the city is a part of China.

There are just two slots left for rugby sevens: one for men, one for women. To line up at the Stade de France this year, the Chinese teams must win their respective repechage tournaments in Monaco later this month. The three-day competition takes place from 21-23 June.

Captain of China’s men’s team, Li Haitao, told Hong Kong media that making the Olympics was “every athlete’s ultimate dream” and that his team was doing its best to “get that ticket to Paris.”

[See more: New Zealand triumphant at Hong Kong Rugby Sevens]

“We’re all in good shape, training with great enthusiasm,” he added. “We’re all very united as a team.”

The team’s assistant coach, Zhu Jing, said that while China was not traditionally considered a strong rugby-playing nation, its players had “speed and agility” on their sides.

“When we play, we are actually better in these attributes compared to players from Europe or the Americas,” he claimed.

[See more: China beats Netherlands in Women’s Volleyball preliminaries at Macao’s Galaxy Arena]

For its repechage tournament, the Chinese men’s sevens team faces formidable opposition, being in the same pool as Great Britain, Canada, and Uganda. The women’s team faces Poland, Czech Republic and Mexico.

Twenty-two rugby sevens teams have already been confirmed for the Olympics. The men’s event will feature New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji and Australia, who booked their places in Paris by ranking in the top four positions of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023. They’ll be joined by hosts France and the six regional qualification tournament winners: Uruguay, Ireland, USA, Kenya, Samoa and Japan.

The women’s line-up consists of New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and USA as the top four qualifiers through the 2023 World Series, along with hosts France, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Fiji and Japan.

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