Which international fifteens players could be the stars of Rugby Sevens in Rio?

With the 7s season now complete it was Fiji who finished top of the World Rugby 7s standings after nine rounds of action, but USA who won the final at Twickenham.

England finished fourth in the overall pool – despite losing in the semi-finals 43-12 to the USA in May - meaning they secured an automatic qualification place for Great Britain for the Olympic Games next summer in Rio.

Also, the Elite 7s season is now in full swing with events such as Halifax 7s just around the corner so keep looking at our Red Panda website for all the latest 7s features and articles.

Tournaments on the GB7s circuit such as Bournemouth 7s really do showcase some players that have the ability to push on into their national teams, but it may be too late for a place in Brazil in just under 12 months’ time.

The other option which some players have to get to the Olympics is their own reputation in the fifteen man game.

Arguably winning a Gold medal is the highest accolade a sportsman/woman can win in their career, but to do it whilst playing rugby is very rare. The Rio Olympic Games offers rugby players that chance by the inclusion of rugby sevens in 2016.

Team GB

For Team GB, it would be great to see the likes of Sam Burgess and Christian Wade represent the nation with both having excellent seasons in the Aviva Premiership.

Wade has not been selected in England’s World Cup squad by Stuart Lancaster which has surprised many after the campaign he has had for Wasps. The tricky winger really does suit 7s rugby with his speed and quick feet to beat numerous defenders. If he has another superb season at the Ricoh, then it would be great to see him in Rio.

In terms of Burgess, he is already capable of playing a quicker version of the game as he can translate his Rugby League skills on to the Sevens stage. Not only that, he has proved this year for Bath that he can do the forward work too which makes him a good all-rounder to have in the squad.

Welsh stars such as Alex Cuthbert and Justin Tipruic would also be valuable inclusions. Cuthbert has struggled to push his way into the Wales XV set-up, but his pace and size would prove very useful when it comes to Sevens. As for Tipruic, he offers the opposite to Cuthbert, but really does have the qualities to be a Sevens player. His great breakdown work and offload skills could be key for Team GB.

One of the Scottish representatives could be Stuart Hogg. He has shown what he can do on the international stage as he is an ever present in the Scotland set-up, so being part of an Olympic side wouldn’t be a problem for him.

New Zealand

New Zealand secured their place in Rio after a quarter-final win against Scotland. It has been published that The All Blacks are looking to try and force as many XV players into their 7s side and you cannot blame them with the wealth of talent they have.

Beauden Barrett, Liam Messam, Julian and Ardie Savea would all like to add another feather to their international rugby caps, but firstly they will firmly be focused on retaining the World Cup this autumn.

Sonny Bill Williams is also part of New Zealand’s strong World Cup squad and it has been reported that he is willing to miss the 2016 Super Rugby season in order to get into the Olympic squad. I am sure he will want to add a Gold medal to his impressive rugby CV.

There has also been some young stars that have turned heads in Super Rugby this season such as Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo, with the latter already getting a taste of 7s  this campaign. Both players would add another dimension to the All Blacks side.

Australia

Once again Quade Cooper is in the headlines as his contract talks took another twist at the end of June.

After Cooper’s club – the Queensland Reds – decided not to renew his contract, the Australian Rugby Union wants to find a way to keep him involved with the Wallabies, with one of the options being Rugby Sevens.

It has been said that Cooper wants to represent Australia in Rio and that has been top of the agenda with Cooper’s manager Khoder Nasser and the ARU.

The ARU have made it clear that they are looking to bolster their Sevens squad for the Olympics and have said that the head coach of the Wallabies – Michael Cheika – and the ARU are fully behind Cooper playing for Australia next summer.

If Cooper was to play, that would be superb for Australia and the game and if Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and Tevita Kuridrani were to join him, that would add to an already strong looking Sevens team.

South Africa

South Africa ended 10 points behind Fiji in the overall pool of the 2014-15 season and will be one of the favourites for a medal next summer. It would be great to see the likes of Willie Le Roux – who has just ended his time with the Cheetahs – be part of that squad along with winger Cornal Hendricks and openside Heinrich Brussouw.

The next year will be interesting to see how keen each Sevens team are on bringing in rugby stars from XV for Rio 2016 and how many are key additions considering how much Rugby Sevens have developed.