We take a closer look at the 24 teams vying to be crowned world champions in the seventh edition of RWC Sevens this weekend.

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ARGENTINA

Seeded: 7

Coach: Santiago Gómez Cora
Captain: Gastón Revol
Nickname: Los Pumas Sevens
Twitter handle: @UnionArgentina

RWC Sevens best result: Runners-up 2009
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 7

Ever-presents on the Rugby World Cup Sevens stage, Argentina have medalled twice in the six previous editions – bronze in 2001 and silver in 2009 – but they failed to reach the quarter-finals last time out in Moscow, prompting a change of head coach. Santiago Gómez Cora, the former all-time leading try-scorer in world series history, assumed control and has turned their fortunes around. Under him, they came painstakingly close to a place in an Olympic semi-final at Rio 2016 and, this season, reached the finals in both Cape Town and Las Vegas. Ably led by veteran Gastón Revol and with a squad that has been tried and tested on the series, including former series rookie of the year Matías Osadczuk, they are ready to fulfil their huge potential.

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AUSTRALIA

Seeded: 6

Coach: Tim Walsh
Captain: Lewis Holland
Twitter handle: @Aussie7s

RWC Sevens best result: Runners-up 1993, 2001
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 4

Having led the Australia women to world series and Olympic glory, new coach Tim Walsh will be hoping his winning formula rubs off on what has been an inconsistent men’s team. Walsh came within a last-gasp try of enjoying a dream start at his first tournament in charge in Singapore, but knows he has work to do to turn a side packed with exciting talent into consistent title challengers. Australia, who ended a six-year title drought by winning the Sydney Sevens in January, have twice reached a RWC Sevens final, in 1993 when David Campese lit up the tournament and again in 2001. Australia have, though, suffered a blow ahead of the 2018 edition with playmaker James Stannard forced to call time on his playing career due to injury.

CANADA

Seeded: 10

Coach: Damian McGrath
Captain: Harry Jones
Twitter handle: @RugbyCanada

RWC Sevens best result: Quarter-finalists 2001
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 9

Canada have been plagued by injuries and a lack of consistency this season with fourth-place finishes in Cape Town and Paris the highlights of a season of ups and downs. While veteran John Moonlight’s recent retirement has tested the depth of the squad and deprived them of years of experience, Canada still possess plenty of quality performers. Playmaker Nathan Hirayama was the top point scorer on the 2018 series, while powerhouse Justin Douglas has been on fire, walking away with the DHL Impact Player accolade for the season. Both were members of the side that secured Canada’s first – and to date – only series title in Singapore in April 2017. Canada have played at every RWC Sevens tournament, but only reached the Cup quarter-finals once, back in 2001.

CHILE

Seeded: 17

Coach: Edmundo Olfos
Captain: Felipe Brangier
Nickname: Los Condores Sevens
Twitter handle: @chilerugby1

RWC Sevens best result: Bowl winner 2001
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: Did not play

Chile have taken some notable scalps this season with wins against New Zealand and South Africa. Admittedly neither of their opponents were anywhere near full strength at the time but the victories – at the Silicon Valley Sevens and Punta del Este Sevens – were important milestones for a team that has been busily preparing for RWC Sevens 2018 for the last year and is well-backed by the country’s National Olympic Committee, enabling them to have a week-long training camp in Fiji in June. Los Condores Sevens have been coached for the best part of a decade by Edmundo Olfos, who represented Chile in their only previous RWC Sevens appearance in 2001, while Felipe Brangier wears the captain’s armband. Chile have come close to qualifying for the world series for the last two years and opponents will take them lightly at their peril.

ENGLAND

Seeded: 4

Coach: Simon Amor
Captain: Tom Mitchell
Twitter handle: @EnglandRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Champions 1993
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 5

Twenty-five years on from winning the inaugural tournament in 1993, England will be among the favourites to make the podium again in San Francisco. Since that shock triumph in Edinburgh in 1993 when the likes of RWC 2003 winners Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson first announced their arrival on the global stage, England have added two more medals to their collection – bronze in Hong Kong in 2005 and silver eight years later in Moscow. Led by captain Tom Mitchell, England have talent and experience throughout the side in the shape of Ollie Lindsay-Hague and veteran James Rodwell despite losing Dan Bibby to injury suffered at the Exeter Sevens earlier this month. Dan Norton, the all-time leading try-scorer in world series history with 299, is still going strong at 30 in a side that finished third at the Commonwealth Games in April under the coaching of former captain Simon Amor.

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FIJI

Seeded: 2

Coach: Gareth Baber
Captain: Jerry Tuwai
Twitter handle: @FijiRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Champions 1997 and 2005
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 2

To watch Fiji play sevens is a joy to behold. The Olympic champions entertain fans and bewitch opponents in equal measure with a dazzling skill-set that sets them apart from the rest. Rugby sevens is a religion in Fiji with World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Waisale Serevi revered above all others in the Pacific Islands and beyond. Now retired, the little magician inspired Fiji to RWC Sevens glory in Hong Kong in 1997 and 2005. They have also won three bronze medals and have only failed to make the podium once in RWC Sevens history. Fiji won back-to-back world series titles in 2015 and 2016 and, with talent and power across the park, looked set for a third title in four years, but Gareth Baber’s charges lost in the Cup quarter-finals in Paris and South Africa capitalised to pip them to the title by two points in the overall standings.

FRANCE

Seeded: 11

Coach: Jérôme Daret
Captain: Manoël Dall’Igna
Twitter handle: @FFRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Quarter-finalists 1997, 2005 and 2013
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 13th

One of the traditional powerhouses of the 15s game, with three Rugby World Cup final appearances and a quarter of a century of Five/Six Nations titles to their name, when it comes to sevens France have some catching up to do. They have never finished higher than fifth at a RWC Sevens tournament or above seventh in the world series. Determined to put that record straight, last year they enlisted the help of Olympic gold medal-winning coach Ben Ryan as a consultant. The former Fiji coach works under head coach Jérôme Daret who has only been in position since September last year. Jean Pascal Barraque and Tavite Veredamu have both impressed on the 2018 series, while the return to fitness of Jonathan Laugel and Pierre Gilles Lakafia could be very timely for Les Bleus who have also seen former captain Terry Bouhraoua make a return in recent months.

HONG KONG

Seeded: 19

Coach: Paul John
Captain: Ben Rimene
Twitter handle: @HongKongRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Plate final 1997
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: Did not play

Hong Kong have featured in every RWC Sevens to date, twice as tournament hosts, but have never finished higher than 10th. However, the manner in which they booked their ticket to San Francisco shows they are not just there to make up the numbers this weekend. Going into the final leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in third place, Hong Kong were in danger of missing out on the showpiece event for the first time until a sudden-death, extra-time win over champions Japan, at the Sri Lanka Sevens in Colombo, saw them secure one of Asia’s two regional qualifying spots. Hong Kong have since reached the quarter-finals of the series qualifier on home soil before Chile ended their hopes of a core team place in 2019.

IRELAND

Seeded: 16

Coach: Anthony Eddy
Captain: Billy Dardis
Twitter handle: @IrishRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Semi-finalists 1993
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 15th

Ireland are a side none of the leading teams will want to face at AT&T Park after their performances as the invitational team on the world series in London and Paris, beating hosts England to win the bronze medal in the former and then making the quarter-finals again a week later in France. Under the direction of IRFU Director of Sevens Rugby Anthony Eddy, Ireland have rapidly climbed up the Rugby Europe ladder, rising from Division C in June 2015 to silver medallists in last year’s Grand Prix Series. They qualified for their sixth RWC Sevens tournament as regional runners-up behind champions Russia, having won the Moscow and Clermont-Ferrand titles. In Jordan Conroy they have sheer pace, as his eight tries in London showed, while Terry Kennedy has been equally prolific on the European circuit. The Irish had a point to prove at the time, though, after missing out on a core team place on the 2019 series following a semi-final defeat to Japan in the Hong Kong qualifier semi-finals in April.

JAMAICA

Seeded: 22

Coach: Huntley Anderson
Captain: Conan Osborne
Nickname: Reggae Crocs
Twitter handle: @Jamaica_Rugby

RWC Sevens best result: Debut in 2018
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: Did not play

Normally fans’ favourites wherever they go, Jamaica are a match for anyone athletically, making up for their lack of training time together and top-level experience with power and pace in abundance. The Reggae Crocs became the first Caribbean team to qualify for a RWC Sevens when they beat Guyana 28-24 in the most dramatic of circumstances in the final of the Rugby Americas North Sevens last November, captain Conan Osborne crossing for the match-winning try with the last play of the game. Jamaica played at the Hong Kong qualifier in April and then gave a good account of themselves on debut at the Commonwealth Games, scoring in each of their pool games against sevens heavyweights England, hosts Australia and Samoa.

JAPAN

Seeded: 15

Coach: Kensuke Iwabuchi
Captain: Dai Ozawa
Twitter handle: @JRFURugby

RWC Sevens best result: First time participants in 2018
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 19

Japan go into the tournament with a new head coach and high hopes of improving on their previous best finish of 13th. Former Brave Blossom Kensuke Iwabuchi, capped 20 times by his country at 15s and a member of the squad that competed at RWC 1999, has succeeded New Zealander Damian Karauna. Former Cambridge University fly-half Iwabuchi, who was assistant coach 10 years ago before taking on top-level managerial roles, officially took charge of the reigning Asian champions at the end of May and has inherited a squad that will be competing on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next season following their victory in the Hong Kong qualifier back in April. At the Olympic Games, Japan showed their potential when they beat top sides like New Zealand, Kenya and France before losing to South Africa in the bronze medal match.

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KENYA

Seeded: 9

Coach: Innocent Simiyu
Captain: Oscar Ayodi
Nickname: Shujaa Sevens
Twitter handle: @OfficialKRU

RWC Sevens best result: Semi-finals 2009 and 2013
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 8

While Kenya have struggled to compete with the best in 15s, in sevens the Shujaa regularly find themselves involved at the business end of tournaments. While they have reached two RWC Sevens semi-finals, sharing third place in 2009, their conversion rate on the series amounts to just one Cup success at the Singapore Sevens in 2016. Twice this season they have come close to collecting another trophy – reaching back-to-back finals in Hong Kong and Vancouver – only to come up short against Fiji. Kenya recorded their best points-finish for a series in 2018 but their preparations have been disrupted by the sacking and then reinstatement of coach Innocent Simiyu. However, with experienced names and no shortage of pace and power, in the likes Andrew Amonde, Collins Injera and Willy Ambaka, Kenya will be a side no team will want to face at AT&T Park.

NEW ZEALAND

Seeded: 3

Coach: Clark Laidlaw
Captains: Scott Curry and Tim Mikkelson
Nickname: All Blacks Sevens
Twitter handle: @AllBlacks7s

RWC Sevens best result: Champions 2001 and 2013
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 3

New Zealand are still the benchmark team in international sevens 17 years after they were first crowned world champions in 2001. Under the coaching of World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand added the RWC Sevens 2013 gold medal to their collection as well as pocketing 12 World Rugby Sevens Series titles and four Commonwealth Games gold medals during his 22 years in charge of the team. There was a changing of the guard following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and his successor Clark Laidlaw is now looking to create a new dynasty of success, blending exciting young talent with experienced heads like co-captains Scott Curry and Tim Mikkelson. Winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this year wasn’t bad for starters but a third RWC Sevens title would literally mean the world to the men in black.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Seeded: 23

Coach: Douglas Guise
Captain: Emmanuel Guise
Nickname: Pukpuks

RWC Sevens best result: Debut in 2018
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 17

History was created last November when Papua New Guinea’s men and women became their nation’s first qualifiers for a Rugby World Cup in either 15s or sevens. The Pukpuks finished fifth at the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship in Suva last November to confirm their place in San Francisco as the best non-qualified team. Since then they have played in the Commonwealth Games, winning one of their three games, and the Sydney and Hamilton rounds of the world series. Victories over France and two other core teams, Spain and Russia, across those two tournaments demonstrated how dangerous they can be despite their lack of size. Gairo Kapana, who turns 22 on the eve of RWC Sevens, caught the eye in Hamilton with his deadly finishing and appears to have a big future in front of him, while captain Emmanuel Guise is another elusive runner who can slice through defences given half a chance.

RUSSIA

Seeded: 14

Coach: Andrey Sorokin
Captain: Vladimir Ostroushko
Nickname: The Bears
Twitter handle: @RussiaRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Plate winner 2001
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 16

Try-machine Vladimir Ostroushko is the heartbeat of a Russian team that has dominated the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series in recent years. The two-time defending champions have endured a difficult season on the world series, though, in 2018, falling to make a single Cup quarter-final and collecting just one point in six of the 10 rounds to lose their core team status. While Ostroushko has been terrorising defences for years with his power, players like Vladislav Sozonov and German Davydov are part of an exciting new breed to have come through in recent years. Bowl winners on home soil in 2013, Russia will be looking to make more of an impact this time around.

SAMOA

Seeded: 13

Coach: Sir Gordon Tietjens
Captain: Alatasi Tupou
Nickname: Manu Samoa
Twitter handle: @ManuSamoa

RWC Sevens best result: Semi-finalists 1997 and 2009
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 10

Samoa are 18 months into a new era under Gordon Tietjens, the most decorated coach in the history of the sevens game, and there has yet to be a sustained resurgence in the side’s fortunes. Since winning the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the first and only time in 2009-10, successes have been few and far between. An amazing comeback against Fiji in the Paris Sevens final in 2016 remains one of the few highlights, while the failure to qualify for the Olympic Games later that year was an immense disappointment for such a proud rugby-playing nation. Samoa are two-time bronze medallists on the RWC Sevens stage, reaching the podium in 1997 and 2009, but they missed out on the quarter-finals last time out in Moscow after narrowly losing their final pool game against Kenya.

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SCOTLAND

Seeded: 8

Coach: John Dalziel
Captain: Scott Riddell
Twitter handle: @ScotlandTeam

RWC Sevens best result: Quarter-finalists 2005
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 12

The nation that introduced rugby sevens to the world and hosted the sport’s first recognised tournament some 135 years ago, is belatedly starting to build momentum as a force in the global game, winning back-to-back London Sevens titles in 2016 and 2017 and finishing a creditable sixth at the most recent edition of the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Both London triumphs came under the coaching of Calum MacRae and successor John Dalziel has had the past year to put his own stamp on a youthful team that includes the likes of Robbie Fergusson, who finished the series on a high as the DHL Impact Player at the Paris Sevens. Experience comes from captain Scott Riddell, who is now in his ninth year of international sevens, but Scotland need to find some consistency after a season that saw them finish in the bottom two more times than they reached the Cup quarter-finals.

SOUTH AFRICA

Seeded: 1

Coach: Neil Powell
Captain: Philip Snyman
Nickname: Blitzboks
Twitter handle: @Blitzboks

RWC Sevens best result: Runners-up 1997
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 1

Renowned for being robust defensively and extremely physical in the contact area, South African teams have also had more than their fair share of individual brilliance over the years. In Cecil Afrika, Werner Kok and Seabelo Senatla the Blitzboks have provided three of the last seven recipients of the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year and, in 2017, Rosko Specman made the shortlist of three. Still the only team to beat New Zealand in the history of the Commonwealth Games, when they won gold at Glasgow 2014, South Africa will arrive in San Francisco on a high having successfully defended their world series title with victory in the 2018 finale in Paris. South Africa, bronze medallists at Rio 2016, have never failed to reach the RWC Sevens quarter-finals but have only gone beyond that once, in 1997 when they lost to Fiji in the final in Hong Kong.

TONGA

Seeded: 24

Coach: Taholo Anitoni
Captain: To be confirmed
Twitter handle: @officialTongaRU

RWC Sevens best result: Quarter-finalists 1993
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: Did not play

The lowest seeded nation having not played on either the series in 2018 or the Hong Kong qualifier, Tonga qualified for their sixth RWC Sevens tournament after defeating the Solomon Islands 24-19 to win the bronze medal at the Pacific Mini Games last December. Finalists Fiji and Samoa had already qualified leaving Tonga to claim the second of the Oceania regional places. Young Pongi played a starring role throughout the campaign in Vanuatu with six tries and can cause mayhem if given too much time and space. While Tonga have traditionally lagged behind their Pacific rivals on the sevens front, their loyal and extremely vocal supporters will definitely take some beating in California.

UGANDA

Seeded: 20

Coach: Tolbert Onyango
Captain: Michael Okorach
Nickname: Rugby Cranes
Twitter handle: @Uganda_Rugby

RWC Sevens best result: Debut in 2018
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 18

Winners of the last two Rugby Africa Sevens titles, RWC Sevens newcomers Uganda have made rapid strides since they first experienced life on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in December 2016. After being eliminated by Germany at the quarter-final stage of the Hong Kong qualifier in April, the Rugby Cranes went to the Commonwealth Games where they lost to Wales and Fiji before maintaining their record of securing at least one victory in each of the four Games they have competed in with victory over Sri Lanka. In Solomon Okia, Uganda possess one of the quickest players on the planet. Once clocked at 10.58 seconds for the 100 metres, Okia finished last year’s Dubai Sevens as the tournament’s top try scorer, crossing the line eight times in six matches. Captain Michael Okorach and Philip Wokorach are two other key players for the ambitious Ugandans.

URUGUAY

Seeded: 18

Coach: Luis Pedro Achard
Captain: Gabriel Puig
Nickname: Los Teros Sevens
Twitter handle: @RugbyUruguay

RWC Sevens best result: Bowl semi-finalists 2009 and 2013
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 20

Led by charismatic captain Gabriel Puig and coached by the vastly-experienced Luis Pedro Achard, Uruguay are competing in their fourth consecutive RWC Sevens. They booked their ticket to San Francisco – and an invitation to compete at the Las Vegas and Vancouver rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – after successfully coming through the regional qualification process as the top-ranked South American team. Los Teros Sevens lost every game on their North American stopovers before running preliminary round opponents Japan close when they met in the series qualifier quarter-finals in Hong Kong. Uruguay will rely heavily on 15s players such as Gastón Mieres and Nicolás Freitas who were key to helping Los Teros qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 earlier this year.

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USA

Seeded: 5

Coach: Mike Friday
Captain: Madison Hughes
Nickname: USA Eagles Sevens
Twitter handle: @USARugby

RWC Sevens best result: Plate quarter-finalist 2001, 2009 and 2013
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 6

Quick-witted and quick-thinking, USA coach Mike Friday remains one of the finest tacticians in the sevens game. Friday joined the Men’s Eagles Sevens after earlier spells in charge of England and Kenya and led them to their inaugural world series Cup title in London in 2015, followed by a first-ever win on home soil earlier this year in Las Vegas. In Perry Baker, the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in 2017, and this season’s top try-scorer Carlin Isles, USA possess two of the game’s most lethal finishers and fastest men on the series, while the vision of captain Madison Hughes and the power of Danny Barrett give the side plenty of guile and go-forward. It would take something extraordinary for the host nation not to improve on their previous best finish of 13th, their final standing in three of the last four Rugby World Cup Sevens.

WALES

Seeded: 12

Coach: Gareth Williams
Captain: Adam Thomas
Twitter handle: @WelshRugbyUnion

RWC Sevens best result: Champions 2009
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: 14

Wales shocked the rugby world, and quite possibly themselves, when they defied odds of 80-1 to win RWC Sevens 2009 on an eventful final day in the Dubai desert. Reaching such heights since then has been beyond them although, on their day, Wales can be a match for anyone as they showed in coming within touching distance of beating Olympic champions Fiji in the Commonwealth Games quarter-finals in April. Coach Gareth Williams, part of the Team GB set-up that won silver at Rio 2016, will be hoping to add another chapter to his already glittering CV before he steps down to take up a new role within the Welsh Rugby Union. Electric finisher Luke Morgan, Wales’ all-time leading try-scorer on the series, remains the talisman of the team.

ZIMBABWE

Seeded: 21

Coach: Gilbert Nyamutsamba
Captain: Boyd Rouse
Nickname: Cheetahs
Twitter handle: @ZimbabweRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Plate quarter-finalists 2013
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 final ranking: Did not play

Under current coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba, the Cheetahs finished 13th at RWC Sevens 2013, an improvement from their position four years earlier when they came 17th after winning the Bowl. Zimbabwe qualified for this year’s event after reaching the Rugby Africa Sevens final last October, a 10-7 defeat to Uganda denying them a fourth continental title. This will be the fifth time the Cheetahs have appeared on the RWC Sevens stage, having competed at the 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2013 tournaments. Germany-based gasman Tafadzwa Chitokwindo scored a couple of tries during the side’s run to the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong qualifier in April and is one of the main weapons out wide for Zimbabwe, the lowest ranked of the four African sides in San Francisco.

Follow all the action unfold from 20-22 July on rwcsevens.com, the RWC Sevens App or via @WorldRugby7s using #RWC7s.