World Rugby has unveiled plans for a condensed edition of its World Sevens Series, with the first men’s events to take place after this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The schedule includes five women’s and four men’s rounds, with the potential for two further men’s events. Hong Kong, Dubai and Cape Town (pictured) will host joint men’s and women’s events.
World Rugby has planned a more “compact” series this year given the ongoing difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to accommodate the Olympics.
The series kicks off with back-to-back women’s events in Marcoussis, Paris on May 15-16 and May 22-23. The series will then return after the Olympics with a men’s event in Singapore on October 29-30, with joint men’s and women’s rounds to follow in Hong Kong on November 5-7, Dubai on December 3-4 and Cape Town on December 10-12.
Discussions are ongoing regarding possible men’s events in London and Vancouver in between the Olympics and the Singapore event. World Rugby will provide further updates to the schedule when they are available.
No Sevens Series games have been played since last March due to COVID-19, with World Rugby cancelling the 2019-20 campaign with four men’s events and three women’s events still to play. New Zealand are the reigning champions of both series.
This year, Japan will join as a core team in the men’s series while the England, Scotland and Wales teams will compete as GB Sevens in both series due to it being an Olympic year. As a result, two additional invitational places for the men’s events will be offered.
World Rugby is investing $4m (£2.9m/€3.3m) into Olympic-qualified unions’ sevens programmes and towards the costs of hosting high-performance preparation events ahead of Tokyo 2020. The first of these events took place in Madrid on February 20-21 and February 27-28, with another planned for Los Angeles in June.
World Rugby interim chief executive Alan Gilpin said: “As a key driver of game growth, particularly in emerging markets, the continued success of rugby sevens and the Sevens Series is a strategic priority for World Rugby and our $4m funding to support sevens programmes is a clear demonstration of our commitment. This unique Olympic year provides a huge opportunity to reach new audiences around the world and introduce them to the speed, skill and excitement of rugby sevens, encouraging them to become future fans of the Series.
“Above all, the health, safety and wellbeing of players, fans and the wider community remains our top priority and all stakeholders will continue to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and work closely with host governments and health agencies to ensure a safe, secure and highly impactful return to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.”
If teams are unable to travel or participate in all events this year, World Rugby will, where possible, invite replacement teams to fill the places of any core team.