The 2021 Sevens World Series has succumbed to yet more Coronavirus casualties, resulting in the Australia and New Zealand legs being canceled by World Rugby.
After the Dubai and Capetown legs had been canceled, the news that World Rugby has withdrawn scheduling of the Pacific round is disappointing. To both competing nations, organizers but most significantly, the players.
Denied an end to the abridged 2019/20 HSBC Sevens Series, it has now impacted on the player’s plans for 2021.
COVID claims the Hamilton and Sydney legs of @WorldRugby7s series. First four legs cancelled. Will we see any 7s before Olympics?
— Brenden Nel (@BrendenNel) September 1, 2020
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said, “We continue to closely monitor the ongoing and dynamic global situation with COVID-19 and the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public remains sacrosanct.
“While it is disappointing not be able to go ahead with the World Sevens Series events in New Zealand and Australia in January 2021, we are working very hard together with all host organizations, participating unions, and other stakeholders to bring a safe, secure, and highly impactful return to action as soon as possible and we look forward to returning to Sydney and Hamilton in future,” Gosper said.
2021 Sevens World Series Coronavirus casualty
Already, the Coronavirus has consumed the 2020 Olympic Games, and it is now threatening the planning of the 2021 Sevens World Series. With the cloud of Coronavirus hovering over the future of the Hong Kong/Singapore legs, and that of the women’s and men’s Sevens Series, it casts doubt of the viability of nations sevens programs.
In a bid to sustain that, World Rugby have stepped up their support. With a $2.5 million dollar investment, the organization wishes to maintain the longevity of the sport.
— World Rugby Media (@worldrugbymedia) September 1, 2020
With all sports impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the Olympic Games postponed by 12 months, the commitment is being made with the welcome support of the advancement of International Olympic Committee payments to International Federations and National Olympic Committees.
Each union that has qualified a team for the Tokyo 2020 Games will be able to apply to World Rugby for funding which can be directed towards rugby sevens squad training camps, competition support, technical and sports science, and medical programs.
The news of the funding boost comes as collaborative contingency planning for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series continues to progress with ongoing reviews into the delivery of the remaining 2021 men’s and women’s Series events. All efforts are being made to preparations towards a safe, secure, and impactful return to action in line with World Rugby’s COVID-19 return to play protocols.
New Zealand Rugby sevens high-performance investment
While nations like England and Wales are reducing investment in sevens programs, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has done the opposite. The crown Sevens Series champions are committed to longterm goals.
The All Blacks and Black Ferns Sevens teams’ schedules had been disrupted, but NZR head of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum said contingency plans were well advanced to ensure both teams were well prepared for the Tokyo Olympics. “The goal of our sevens teams to succeed at the Olympics hasn’t changed and our high-performance team has done a great job ensuring the players remain fit, focused, and informed.”
Meanwhile, World Rugby, in full partnership with host unions, regional associations, participating unions, and International Rugby Players, continues to evaluate and develop supplementary competition opportunities at regional or cross-regional level in addition to the World Sevens Series, to ensure that Olympic qualified teams have an appropriate amount of high-level competition opportunities.
In Oceania, discussions are forming for an ‘invitational series’ to be hosted in a country where it is safe to do so. Suggestions might be Queensland, Australia, or Queenstown, New Zealand. It could also be hosted in an island nation, who has good isolation facilities for a small number of teams to play in a tournament broadcast worldwide to sevens fans [starved of football].
Only in the early stages, fans will await any news that either a World Rugby leg of a rescheduled Sevens Series, or a regional tournament can be confirmed. This would benefit players, stakeholders, and rugby sevens fans across the globe.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images