SVNS Grand Final: the Great Gamble

Tomorrow sees the first SVNS Grand Final kick-off in Madrid. Will this new event attract the crowds and media interest?

Published by John Birch, May 8, 2024

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SVNS Grand Final: the Great Gamble

The first SVNS Grand Final starts in Madrid tomorrow. It has been sold as the culmination of the SVNS season, but will this curious weekend - which is actually two separate events running in parallel - work?

After all we already know what has won the SVNS series – New Zealand, who beat Australia in Singapore to take the title. This weekend’s competition between the top eight teams from that series is essentially a totally separate competition. Great Britain start on level terms with the Ferns, despite only qualifying by the skin of the teeth, 87 points behind New Zealand.

What is more, for the casual spectator, this is essentially the fourth Sevens World Championship, which are (in an arguable order of importance):

* the Olympics,

* the World Cup,

* the SVNS series,

* and now this, the Grand Final.

What sort of bragging rights does it give to the winner (if it isn’t New Zealand)? World Champions? No. World Series Champions? No. So, is this essentially just an end-of-season exhibition?

Of course, this "top 8" is not the only game in town, and the “other” competition is a different thing entirely.

The stakes in the Relegation/Qualifier tournament are huge – lose one of the four “finals” on the third day and you are out of the SVNS, dropping down into the second tier challenger event… assuming you qualify for it via your regional sevens. That could mean going from being a professional/semi pro player to an amateur overnight.

And it is here that the pool draw has been crucial. The key thing on the Day 3 “finals” will be to avoid China, and the teams drawn with China in Pool A (Spain, Japan and Poland) know that they will do that – although they could still meet South Africa or Brazil.

These will be some of the most dramatic, tension-filled, career-defining 14 minutes of rugby in the entire year. We can only hope that they get the crowd that such matches deserve.

And that is perhaps going to be the most important thing. The Spanish Federation have won the rights not just this year, but also next. It will be the only SVNS event to be played in Europe, replacing both London and Paris. It feels like a massive gamble, not only by the Spanish but also by World Rugby (both of whom will be praying that Spain survive to play next year).

This is meant to be a marquee event. It needs the buzz and crowd to justify that. The hope is that the big names from the top 8 will pull people in, and that the tension of the Qualifier will then keep them rooted to their seats (especially with Spain being one of the teams involved). And that that drama may just get the SVNS noticed on the sports pages and websites other than those devoted to rugby.

Will it? We will soon find out.

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