Last Tuesday in Rio Olympics, New Zealand was defeated by Japan 14-12 at the Deodoro Stadium, while also having to deal with Sonny Bill Williams‘ severe ankle injury.
Williams has partaken in two Rugby World Cups, but it appears that Rio Olympics were a different beast as he almost completely ruptured his Achilles tendon when he was tackling a Japanese team player.
After the injury, Williams was replaced by Sione Molia. But injuries did not stop there, as Joe Webber also suffered a dislocated shoulder and was forced to keep playing due to the impossibility of replacement, leading the team to a hard defeat by just two points.
With the main players injured, there is not much to do in sports
Coach Gordon Tietjens acknowledged that lacking Williams and Webber was detrimental to the game, as they had “outstanding qualities” that were vital for the team. Tietjens said that both Williams and Webber worked very hard to prepare themselves for the Rio Olympics, but that he would have to manage the team without them at their full potential.
It was evident that the Japanese team regained confidence when their main headache was out of the game. Apparently, the team had focused their strategy on Williams’ movements, as he was the most prolific player in the Olympics.
On the other hand, Great Britain has scored two wins out of two games, managing to beat Japan 21-19 and 31-7 over Kenya.
The reappearance of rugby sevens
The Rio Olympics marks the debut of a smaller version of traditional 15-man rugby, known as rugby sevens. It is the first time the sport is featured in the Olympics since 1924 when it used to be a regular event. There are three pools with four teams each, with both men and women tournaments. The two top teams in each pool and the two best third places are chosen to go onto the quarter-finals.
The primary objective of rugby sevens is to score more points than the opponent before the match ends. Each game consists of two halves of seven minutes each, with the same scoring rules as traditional rugby. The main characteristic of rugby is that players can only pass the ball backward with their hands, but they can also kick it forward.
One of the most physical sports available, a rugby union’s greatest accomplishment, is to win the Rugby World Series, although there are plenty of tournaments such as the Six Nations, Tri Nations and the Heineken Cup whose victory is sought by many teams.
Many believe that New Zealand and Fiji are the most likely to reach the men’s finals, as Fiji’s team managed to win the latest World Series. But Williams’ injury may leave an open field for Fiji to seize their first Olympic medal.
On women’s rugby sevens, Australia was featured as the World Series champion, while New Zealand’s team also appears to be a favorite as it became the world champion in 2013.
Britain is set to face New Zealand for Pool C’s final match at 16:30 local time on Wednesday.