Here's the latest from the iRB about Rugby 7s most important year as well as the release from USA Rugby regarding what will not only be a fantastic iRB series, but the first rounds of Olympic qualifying. Also worth noting is that the Women's Sevens World Series will once again add another tournament, bringing them up to 6 different 7s weekends:
"Probably the most important year for Sevens"
Total Rugby Radio caught up with Avan Lee, the IRB's General Manager for Sevens, to discuss the announcements and what they mean for the sport as we countdown down to Rugby Sevens' debut at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The IRB has moved to announce the dates for the 2014/15 Series much earlier than usual, why is that?
The HSBC Sevens World Series for 2014/15 will actually be a qualification series for the 2016 Olympics so we were very keen to get those dates released for all teams so they are aware of what that Series will look like, plus every year the tournaments are keen to release their dates so it is great to be able to do that for them as well.
How do you think the Olympic qualifying affects the Series in terms of how Unions are talking about it and approaching it?
Look everyone is talking about it, I think we are not too sure about what effect it will have on the Series but we know it will be positive. I think it is a fantastic opportunity for local fans, local sponsors of the individual tournaments. Let’s be honest, it is probably the most important year of Sevens there has ever been so that has got to be great for our sport.
You have also announced a long list of countries interested in hosting the Series from 2015/16, did the scale of interest surprise you?
A little bit. I think we knew it was going to be a large number. We have 25 Unions who are hoping to host a Sevens World Series event in 2015/16 and we also have 14 Unions who are hoping to host Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018. It is great to have the current tournaments that have rebid if you like, and also have countries like France, Fiji, Portugal, Spain and China who have also put their hands up, which is very encouraging.
How likely is it that the mix of venues will change after 2014/15?
We have a fantastic Series as it stands but there is room for some new tournaments in new parts of the world that will add something different to our sport and the series itself.
One team will be relegated from the Series this season, is there any latest news on what kind of satellite series they might be playing below that top tier?
We are still working on that. It is a very important aspect to this whole piece of work. There needs to be a viable second tier competition and it needs to be complimentary to the Series itself but also to the regional tournaments. We need to find space in the calendar for those events but there needs to be that viable competition for those teams that aren’t in the Series and have the opportunity therefore to move into the Series in future years.
What about the Women’s Series, can we expect something similar soon?
The Women’s Series is different to the men’s, it is at a different stage of its life cycle. We currently have five events on the Women’s Series, we would like that to move up to six for next season. We won’t go through the same tender process that we have been through for the men’s but we are currently working with the current teams and potential hosts to make sure that series is the best it can possibly be.
So, these are exciting times for Sevens right now?
They certainly are, as I said this is probably the most important year of Sevens coming up. We have got unprecedented interest in hosting events in the Series but also the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018 and new countries are coming to us and expressing an interest, wanting to play the sport, take up the sport. We have got countries like Canada and Kenya who are competing with the major rugby nations on the world stage so it is a hugely exciting time for our sport and with the Olympics just over the horizon you can only be positive about the future of our game.
IRB announces dates for Olympic qualifying season of men's Sevens World Series
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced the dates for the HSBC Sevens World Series 2014/15, which has gained in significance with the recent announcement that the top four-ranked nations will qualify from it directly for the Olympic Games in 2016.
The 16th edition of the record-breaking Series will visit the same nine countries as the current 2013/14 season with two changes to the order of rounds. The event in the USA will be played the weekend after New Zealand’s, and Japan’s tournament will follow on from Hong Kong.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "With the World Series now confirmed as a key part of Olympic qualifying for Rio 2016, we are delighted to have nine such strong tournaments showcasing these world class athletes and the strength of global Sevens competition.
"Rugby Sevens is growing all the time and its Olympic credentials are helping to forge new markets and interest around the world, in turn broadening the international landscape for the game of Rugby.
"Throughout this 2013/14 Series we are once again seeing an avid fan base flocking to support and watch these spectacular events, and mirroring the vibrancy and youthfulness of the rugby players on the pitch. We are all already looking forward with great anticipation to next season."
Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship and Events, HSBC Holdings plc said: "HSBC has been involved with Rugby Sevens since 2010 as the first ever sponsor of the International Rugby Board's Sevens World Series. With the added incentive of Olympic qualification, next year's HSBC Sevens World Series is set to be the most exciting yet and we are proud to continue our support, from grassroots through to elite level during this crucial period."
IRB HSBC Sevens World Series 2014/15
|Round 1||Australia (Gold Coast)||11-12 Oct. 2014|
|Round 2||Dubai||5-6 Dec. 2014|
|Round 3||South Africa (Port Elizabeth)||13-14 Dec. 2014|
|Round 4||New Zealand (Wellington)||6-7 Feb. 2015|
|Round 5||U.S.A. (Las Vegas)||13-15 Feb. 2015|
|Round 6||Hong Kong||27-29 March 2015|
|Round 7||Japan (Tokyo)||4-5 April 2015|
|Round 8||Scotland (Glasgow)||9-10 May 2015|