By Duncan Mackay

Rugby sevens Hong Kong 2013March 23 - Details of the men's qualifying system to be employed for Rio 2016, when rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut, have been revealed.

A total of 12 countries are due to compete in the tournament, which will mark the return of rugby to the Olympic programme for the first time since Paris 1924, when the full 15-a-side game was played, with the United States emerging as the winners.

There will be three stages of the qualification process, the first is the International Rugby Board (IRB) World Sevens Series, which will be used to qualify four teams from the 2014-2015 series, where the top teams at the end of the series in May 2015 will progress to Rio 2016.

Following that, between June and September of 2015, each of the six IRB regions will have an Olympic qualifications event where there will be one team from each of the six regions that will qualify for the Olympics, bringing up to 10 teams qualified.

The final stage of the process will involve a repechage tournament, it was revealed by Mark Egan, the IRB's head of competition and performance, during the Hong Kong Sevens.

Teams that have not qualified through the World Sevens Series, or their region, based on rankings and a quota system from each of the regions will have an opportunity to get a place at Rio 2016.

In that tournament one or two places may be on offer, depending on whether the IRB decide or note to offer host nation Brazil an automatic qualifying place.

Based on the end of 2011-2012, the last IRB World Seven Series, the teams in the qualifying positions would be New Zealand, Fiji, England and Samoa.

But England compete under a Team GB banner in the Olympics and it remains unclear as to how qualification for Britain would work, as England, Scotland and Wales all compete seperately in the World Sevens Series.

The qualifying system for the women has still to be announced.

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