U.S. men’s rugby can boost Olympic qualifying hopes at Las Vegas Sevens

Carlin Isles
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The U.S. men’s rugby sevens team is armed with confidence heading to the fifth of nine World Series legs this weekend in Las Vegas, which will be aired live on NBC, NBCSN, Universal Sports and NBC Sports Live Extra.

The Eagles are performing better than ever at an opportune time, in the first World Series season that doubles as Olympic qualifying.

The U.S. stands in eighth place through four of nine 2014-15 World Series legs and in seventh place in Olympic qualifying standings when taking out Scotland (since England is Great Britain’s representative in Olympic qualifying).

The U.S. has never finished better than 10th in the World Series, which began in 1999-00.

The top four nations at the end of the 2014-15 World Series automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympic rugby tournament. Rugby returns to the Games in Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 1924.

The Eagles must make the most of this weekend’s home-field advantage to boost its chances of breaking into the top four at the end of the World Series. The final leg is in London from May 16-17.

In Las Vegas, the U.S. will play Japan (Friday, 7:22 p.m. ET), Portugal (Friday, 10:18 p.m. ET) and World Series leader South Africa (Saturday, 3:40 p.m. ET) in pool play.

Sixteen nations in total are competing at the largest rugby tournament in North America, with an expected record turnout of over 70,000 fans over three days.

Here’s the broadcast schedule:

Day Time (ET) Network
Friday 7:30 p.m. Universal Sports
Saturday 2 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Saturday 4:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Saturday 8 p.m. Universal Sports
Sunday 1:30 p.m. Universal Sports
Sunday 3 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Sunday 4:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra

The U.S. could get two more chances to qualify for Rio if it doesn’t finish in the top four of the final World Series standings come May.

The Eagles would likely be the favorite at a winner-goes-to-Rio North American and Caribbean qualifying tournament in Cary, N.C., on June 14, given they defeated Canada in their last meeting.

A global, last-chance, winner-take-all Olympic qualifying tournament will also be held in 2016.

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