rugby

Semi Kunatani
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Olympic rugby champion arrested for breaking coronavirus quarantine

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Fiji Rugby Union has criticized two of its top professional players who have been arrested for failing to self-isolate amid the coronavirus pandemic after returning to Fiji from overseas.

Fiji media named one of the players as backrower Semi Kunatani who plays for the London-based Harlequins club. He was a member of the Fiji Olympic champion sevens team from the Rio Games. The other player has not yet been named.

Both players returned to Fiji via Singapore. They were arrested for failing to observe a 14-day quarantine designed the prevent the spread of Covid-19. Fiji has reported 12 cases.

“We strongly condemn the behavior of these two players and their disregard for lawful instructions to self-isolate themselves,” said John O’Connor, chief executive or Fiji rugby.

“Such irresponsible behavior is totally unacceptable and we support the actions of the police in arresting these two players and any further action taken against them. Fiji Rugby will take appropriate disciplinary actions against the professional rugby players, including reporting this highly irresponsible behavior to their clubs and World Rugby.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama highlighted the case of the players during his regular news briefing on Sunday.

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U.S. women’s rugby team earns first World Series title, Olympic spot

Alev Kelter, Lauren Doyle
USA Rugby
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The U.S. women’s rugby sevens team came into the World Series finale expecting to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. What few could have predicted, in addition, was a first World Series leg title.

The U.S. handed World Series champion New Zealand just its third loss of the season, 26-10 in the final in Biarritz, France, on Sunday. The Americans finished the season ranked second in the world, bettering their previous best of fourth in the inaugural campaign in 2012-13.

“I’ve imagined this moment so many times, and for it to finally come together about five years later, it means the world,” Rio Olympian Lauren Doyle said.

The top four became the first nations to qualify for Tokyo 2020. Four years ago, the U.S. women needed a second-chance, continental qualifier to make it into the field for rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio. They lost to eventual silver medalist New Zealand in the Olympic quarterfinals.

The U.S. also showed in-season progress this winter and spring, particularly against New Zealand. The Kiwis won the first four meetings, but the U.S. took two of the last three.

New coach Chris Brown, a former U.S. men’s assistant, replaced Olympic coach Richie Walker, who resigned in August. Only three of this season’s 12 primary players were on the Rio Olympic team.

“We had to sort our culture out and make sure they wanted to play for each other, and know what it was like to put the team before themselves,” Brown said, according to World Rugby. “We’ve got a good group here, and from there we had to work out how to actually defend and show our character through our defense. That’s what we’ve done all season. We’re still missing a few cogs on the attacking side, but we’re progressing.”

The U.S. men previously qualified for Tokyo by finishing second in their World Series.

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U.S. men’s rugby team qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

U.S. men's rugby sevens team
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The U.S. became the first men’s rugby team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, clinching its spot Saturday during penultimate leg of this season’s World Series.

The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world, mathematically secured a place in the top four of the World Series final standings by advancing out of pool play in London. The knockout rounds are Sunday, but a top-eight finish was all that was necessary for Olympic qualification.

Now the U.S. can focus on a goal it didn’t have at the start of the year: winning the nation’s first World Series season title. It entered London with a slim, three-point lead over Olympic champion Fiji, one that would be erased if Fiji and the U.S. advance to Sunday’s final and Fiji wins.

Regardless, the season champion will be decided at the 10th and final World Series stop in Paris next weekend.

The Americans held onto the standings lead despite being without two stars — two-time World Player of the Year Perry Baker and Danny Barrett — the last three World Series stops. Baker and Barrett returned from injuries for the London leg.

Four years ago, the U.S. needed to go to a continental qualifier to earn in its place in Rio. Rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in 2016, 92 years after the traditional 15-a-side rugby last appeared at the Games. The Americans ended up ninth in Brazil, missing the quarterfinals on a tiebreaker.

World powers Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa are in position to join the U.S. as Olympic qualifiers through the World Series.

Seven more nations will qualify via continental tournaments later this year and a last-chance event in June 2020. Japan received an automatic spot as host nation.

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