Dictatorial World Rugby stand their ground
REACTION: World Rugby insists controversial changes to the Sevens World Series format will not be revoked.
Their strong stand comes in the face of anger from coaches and players, who now face truncated legs in Hamilton and Sydney – with the quarterfinals stage erased from the schedule.
The four pool winners in New Zealand and Australia will qualify automatically for the semi-finals.
Media reports claim coaches and players are considering taking their grievances to the International Court of Sport Arbitration to try and get the move overturned.
Critics of the changes claim the insistence on running the Sevens Series men’s and women’s events together has meant that unless tournaments can run for three days – as happened in Cape Town – there isn’t the time to fit in the last eight round.
That is why for the next legs in Hamilton (January 25 and 26) and Sydney (February 1 and 2) – being staged over two days – the pool winners in the men’s events head straight to the final four.
World Rugby believes the new format will deliver a less confusing final day for fans.
The Hamilton draw has put holders Fiji in the same pool as Australia and Argentina, with just one team qualifying for the semifinals.
New Zealand is in a pool with the United States, while South Africa is paired with England.
New Zealand and South Africa currently lead the men’s table on 41 points each, with defending champions Fiji in sixth place.
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A World Rugby spokesman told RugbyPass: “The situation remains that quarterfinals will not take place in Hamilton and Sydney.
“This was discussed last year and we are trying to deliver more men’s and women’s events to create greater synergy. We want to create more opportunities for the women’s game as well and it is a fine balance.”
Sevens experts have made it clear the quarterfinals are central to the excitement generated by the Series and the decision to truncate the next two legs will be counter-productive and reduce television exposure.
There are also important ranking points to fight for in the race for the overall title and this now becomes muddied by the change format which comes after two rounds – Dubai and Cape Town – have already been played with quarterfinals taking place in both.
The Sevens Series has a record six combined men’s and women’s events with the number of women’s tournaments increasing to eight, with the men’s set at 10 rounds.
The series also forms a crucial part of Olympic preparation for the teams as they build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the end of July. The decision to end quarterfinals for Hamilton and Sydney comes as the game’s governing body launches the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
Countries such as Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Mexico, Tonga, Uganda and Zimbabwe are involved and will all take part in the Olympic repechage in June 2020 to try and secure the final qualification place for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The Challenger Series is launched in February with 13 core teams from the six World Rugby regions competing over two rounds alongside three invitational teams.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are thrilled to launch the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in a pivotal year for rugby sevens ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Rugby sevens continues to attract new fans around the globe with its fast-paced, athletic and highly skilled format.
“The new Sevens Challenger Series will help to develop the next generation of players and bring international sevens events to new nations, further growing the popularity of our Olympic sport around the world.”
By Chris Jones, RugbyPass