HONG KONG — The Australian and the U.S. women's rugby sevens teams secured qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics on Saturday by reaching the quarterfinals of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The two teams now have enough points to ensure they cannot fall out of the top four places in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series overall standings, which carry automatic Olympic qualification. The women have one more tournament left this season — May 12-14 in Toulouse, France — after Hong Kong.
New Zealand, which tops the women's standings after five straight podium finishes including wins at the last four tournaments, had already qualified for Paris. France currently stands fourth, ahead of Ireland.
The U.S. Olympic qualification is actually good news for the Canadian women, who now won't have to battle their North American rivals for the one Paris berth up for grabs at the regional Olympic qualifier in Langford, B.C., in August.
Australia won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics where the Canadian women earned bronze. Canada was ninth at the Tokyo Olympics.
The eighth-ranked Canadian women made it to the Cup quarterfinals as one of the two best third-place finishers in group play after beating host Hong Kong 22-5 around losses to No. 5 Britain (5-0) and No. 1 New Zealand (46-0).
That produced a quarterfinal rematch Saturday with the Black Ferns — and another loss, this time 45-14. New Zealand led 28-0 at halftime en route to a seven-try performance. Chloe Daniels and Taejah Thompson scored tries for Canada which suffered its 20th straight defeat at the hands of the New Zealand women.
Canada faces the third-ranked U.S. in the fifth-place semifinal.
On the men's side, the 14th-ranked Canadians finished last in a very tough Group A after losses to No. 2 Argentina (17-7), No. 4 Fiji (40-7) and No. 6 Samoa (29-5). They face No. 8 Ireland on Sunday in the ninth-place semifinal.
Will Percillier scored his first-ever World Series try in the loss to Fiji.
The Canada men find themselves in a relegation fight at the business end of the sevens season.
The World Series is reducing the number of men's core teams to 12 from 16 next season to align with the women's competition and the Olympic field.
After a stop in Singapore, the 15th-ranked core team will be relegated following the men's 10th round May 12-14 in Toulouse. The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of Toulouse will enter a four-team relegation playoff together with the Challenger Series 2023 winners at the final round May 20-21 in London.
The relegation playoff winner will become the 12th core team on the 2024 Series, while the other three teams will enter their respective Regional Sevens Championships in order to qualify for the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2023