Men's Rugby Preview

Rugby sevens returns to the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo after making its debut on the program at Rio 2016. Previously, the 15-a-side version of rugby was part of the Olympic program in the 1900s, with the U.S. men winning gold in 1920 and 1924.

Since its inclusion in the Olympic Games, rugby sevens has seen tremendous growth, with the sport’s debut in Rio attracting 30 million new fans around the world, according to Nielsen reports. In 2018, the Rugby World Cup Sevens became the first ever U.S.-hosted Rugby World Cup, bringing 200,000 fans to AT&T Park in San Francisco and engaging another 9 million viewers across NBC broadcasts.

In 2019, the U.S. men’s rugby sevens team had its most successful season in history. In 10 tournaments, the group claimed seven medals including one gold at its home tournament in Las Vegas, plus four straight silvers and two bronze medals. In a single season, the team tied the total number of medals it had ever won in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The squad also held the No. 1 world ranking for eight out of 10 stops — after previously having never been higher than fifth place — but dropped to No. 2 in the final tournament. The U.S. was the only men’s team to make all 10 semifinals and the first to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Danny Barrett also won the UL Mark of Excellence award for several notable performances, one of which included Barrett jumping up from an on-field injury to make a tackle so his teammate Carlin Isles could score. Barrett also made SportsCenter’s Top 10 when he overcame three New Zealand defenders en route to a try on the home turf of the All Blacks Sevens in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Later that year, at the 2019 World Rugby Awards ceremony, Tomasin and Niua were both nominated as World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year. The U.S. had won the award the previous two years by way of Perry Baker in 2017 and 2018. All those award-winning players will be on the team for Tokyo.

Before the 2020 season abruptly concluded due to COVID-19, the squad added another bronze medal in Sydney after battling numerous injuries and a new competition format. The season ended with Team USA in seventh place with full roster on track to be healthy and ready for 2021.

Updated on July 11, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• Since the emergence of standouts Perry Baker and Carlin Isles, the U.S. has set the tone for having some of the fastest rugby players in the world. Baker is a two-time World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018, while Isles is a former elite sprinter, and has reached top speeds of 25.7 miles per hour. He finished the 2018 and 2019 seasons as the leading try scorer above all 16 teams. Both Isles and Baker are among the program’s highest try scorers in history, with Isles currently on top at 207. Third-year player Kevon Williams and veteran Stephen Tomasin also add their own flair of pace with a number of deceptively fast breakaway tries. 

• The U.S. men’s sevens program has undergone quite a transformation under coach Mike Friday. When Friday took over in 2014, the U.S. was in danger of being relegated out of the World Rugby Sevens Series. But the team has steadily risen to be among the best in the world, culminating in its historically successful season in 2019.

• In Tokyo, the U.S. will square off in Group C against Ireland, Kenya and 2016 bronze medalists South Africa. U.S. coach Mike Friday called the group the potential “Group of Death” of the Games. In the partially-completed 2020 World Rugby Sevens Series, South Africa ranked second, Ireland finished 10th and Kenya was 12th.

• Martin Iosefo, 30, is one of seven players on the roster making his second Olympic appearance. A center/prop, Iosefo is known as a skilled player with the ability to beat defenders. The native of American Samoa has made 46 career appearances in the Sevens Series.

• Stephen Tomasin, 26, was a World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year nominee in 2019, and is known as a powerful runner with the ability to break tackles. The native of Forestville, California, will be making his first Olympic appearance and has 37 appearances in the Sevens Series.

• July 26, 2021: Olympic competition begins with pool round matches
• July 27, 2021: Pool round matches, placing matches and quarterfinals
• July 28, 2021: Placing matches, semifinals and bronze- and gold-medal matches