HSBC SVNS MAD: Seven players set to reign in Spain

The HSBC SVNS 2024 title and qualification for next year’s series are up for grabs over three days of rugby sevens in Madrid – but which players are most likely to get the crowds on their feet?

After seven pulsating rounds, taking in exciting locations from Dubai to Singapore, via Cape Town, Perth, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, HSBC SVNS 2024 comes down to three monumental days in Madrid.

The Cívitas Metropolitano Stadium – home of La Liga football giants Atlético Madrid – will host 32 teams competing variously for the Championship title or for qualification for what promises to be an equally thrilling main competition next year.

Everyone watching in the stadium, or on TV, will witness legends in action, breakout stars making their mark, have their eyes opened by surprise packages and be introduced to new talents.

Here, however, are seven players who could reign in Spain.

Antoine Dupont (France)

Last Saturday, the undisputed world’s best men’s 15s player bent a remarkable Champions Cup final to his will, as Toulouse beat Leinster in London to lift the trophy for a record sixth time.

He and his team-mates were back on French soil late Saturday night. On Sunday evening, he celebrated with fans in the Capitole, in the heart of Toulouse. On Monday, he returned to the France Sevens squad to prepare for the HSBC SVNS 2024 series finale in Madrid.

In Los Angeles earlier this year, France recorded their first tournament success since 2005, with Dupont very much to the fore. They have their eyes on the Olympic Games Paris 2024 – and a more immediate prize, right here.

Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)

After scoring the 200th try of her series career in Cape Town, the second stop of HSBC 2024 SVNS, Black Ferns Sevens’ dashing Blyde set herself a new target.

“It’s been a goal of mine for a while,” she said after the third-place finish in South Africa. “The next one is to be in front of Portia [Woodman-Wickliffe] – but that might take a while, if she doesn’t retire before me.”

As they head to Madrid, Blyde has 246 tries to her name, having notched up 52 touchdowns in 40 matches on the series so far. Woodman-Wickliffe, who has 22 tries in 38 games coming into Grand Final weekend, is on 251. 

Jerry Tuwai (Fiji)

He’s back. The two-time Olympic champion and World Rugby Men's Sevens Player of the Year 2019 brings his legend back to the Fiji squad, for the first time in a year.

The 35-year-old last pulled on the Fiji jersey at the HSBC London Sevens in May 2023 – but new coach Osea Kolinisau has brought him back into the fold for the HSBC SVNS 2024 Grand Final ahead of a possible shot at a third Olympic gold in Paris.

The coach’s target in Spain? Gold and a title. And if there’s a player who knows how to win tournaments, it’s Tuwai.

Maddison Levi (Australia)

Yes, it’s a cliche to pick try-scoring players from the two best women’s teams on HSBC SVNS 2024 – who have won six of this year’s seven regular season titles between them – for this Ones to Watch article … and it’s arguably even more of a cliche to pick a Levi from the Australia set-up.

But no one can argue that Maddison is a rugby sevens phenom wrapped in green-and-gold, who deserves every single one of the plaudits that have come her way.

She has 56 tries in 35 matches across the series so far, and 137 in 105 altogether. All-time records are coming.

Terry Kennedy (Ireland)

Ireland and Leinster 15s star Hugo Keenan has joined the sevens squad in Madrid as he eyes a shot at Olympic glory later in the summer. But Kennedy has been a leading light in their charge to second place in the regular season HSBC SVNS 2024 standings, and top-two seeding at the finals this weekend, behind only Argentina.

Kennedy is the men’s series’ top try scorer with 31, and has made the Dream Team selection three times this season. Many will have their eyes on Keenan, to see how he gets on here at Cívitas Metropolitano Stadium – they should really be watching Kennedy as well.

Chen Keyi (China)

Wins in Dubai and Montevideo set China well on the road to Madrid – while a third win in Krakow capped a near-perfect women's World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger for China, securing their place in Madrid by the time they had qualified for the quarter-finals in Poland.

Rugby sevens is very much a team game, but Chen Keyi is the eye-catching talent, with the heady combination of pace, power and skills that create chance after chance for herself and her team-mates.

It shouldn’t be just fans in the stands in Madrid who want to see her in action: opponents will have to watch out for her, too, with slightly more trepidation.

Diego Ardao (Uruguay)

Los Teros Sevens dominated the three-tournament men's Challenger, winning on home soil in Montevideo in March and again in Munich in April to top the standings with 56 points.

And their 28-year-old captain is the bedrock of their success, just as he was when they won the Challenger title back in 2022.

This year he scored a crucial try in the final in Germany to break host-nation hearts and help book his side a place in Madrid and a chance of climbing up to HSBC SVNS 2025.

See the HSBC SVNS champions crowned in Madrid, 31 May-2 June. Tickets from €10 are available to purchase here