All eyes are on London this coming weekend for the finale of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, but over the past few tournaments there has been a bigger picture forming with qualification for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 now well underway.
The tournament, set to take place in San Francisco on 20-22 July next year, will feature both men's and women's teams and be played at the impressive AT&T Park, home of the major league baseball side the San Francisco Giants. It will be the seventh edition of the tournament, which was last held in Russia back in 2013 and won by New Zealand.
Twenty-four men's teams will compete in San Francisco. The top eight from 2013 (South Africa, Fiji, New Zealand, Wales, England, Australia, Kenya and France) qualified automatically, while USA secured their spot at the tournament as hosts.
"There's some real excitement around the event already," said USA captain Madison Hughes. "The Giants stadium there in San Francisco is a really cool venue, one of the cooler venues for baseball in the USA, so to play there will be really special. We've watched baseball games there so to be inside that stadium playing sevens will be awesome."
With nine of the 15 core teams on the world series qualified automatically, six sides have been battling it out since Dubai last December to book their tickets to RWC Sevens 2018. With the top four sides at the end of the 2016-17 series (excluding the pre-qualified nine) securing qualification, the final two rounds of the series in Paris and London have carried some extra significance.
In the French capital, Canada, Argentina and Scotland all secured qualification, while Samoa are set to become the 13th side to confirm their spot in London. The Pacific islanders are currently 21 points clear of Russia and will receive at least one point in London. Russia can draw level but would need to win the tournament to gain 22 series points, which would be their first ever, and win it by an impossible points margin.
The 11 other spots up for grabs at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 will be decided by regional competitions between June of this year and April 2018.
Canada captain Nate Hirayama, who leads his side out at the HSBC London Sevens this weekend, said: "It's going to be the highlight of the year for us. San Francisco will be a great venue and is not too far from home for us. I think a lot of Canadians will be coming down for it and we're really looking forward to competing."