TOKYO – In an historic first for the Rugby World Cup, 18 Olympians from nine nations – including two from South Africa - are set to take to the field at Japan 2019, the first Rugby World Cup to be held in Asia.
Three years ago in Brazil, rugby sevens made an explosive debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with the fast-paced format thrilling fans as Fiji steamrolled their way to gold, beating Great Britain 43-7 in the final. It was Fiji's first Olympic medal in any sport.
The 18 Olympians have all successfully made the switch from playing sevens at Rio 2016 to be selected for Rugby World Cup 2019, the showpiece event in the 15s game, which begins on Friday when hosts Japan take on Russia at Tokyo Stadium.
The list of Olympians features eight medallists, including South Africa’s bronze medallists Cheslin Kolbe and Kwagga Smith.
Four of the medalists are Fijians - Leone Nakarawa, Viliame Mata, Josua Tuisova and Semi Kunatani. Nakarawa, Mata and Tuisova scored tries in the gold medal match.
Two Great Britain silver medallists Ruaridh McConnochie and James Davies, who will represent England and Wales respectively complete the line-up of Olympic medallists in Japan.