The Commonwealth Games Sevens tournament kicks off in a year’s time – and the Commonwealth Youth Games in less the 100 days. But who will be playing, and when?
The Commonwealth Games was the first major multisport games to include rugby sevens back in 1998, but ironically it will become one of the last to include women’s sevens.
Why it has taken the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) so long to introduce a women’s tournament is mainly due to the nature of the Games. Cost has always been a factor with the Games, which historically made the CGF reluctant to include team sports are they are expensive, on accommodation costs alone.
The 1998 Games in Malaysia changed that. The best funded games at that time allowed the organisers to include a range of team sports for the first time, including hockey and netball, as well as rugby sevens – with rugby seen as the “male” team sport to balance netball, the “women’s” team sport (both men and women played hockey).
The success of rugby at the Kuala Lumpur Games encouraged its retention in Manchester in 2002, after which the format never looked back, beginning a path that lead to Rio last summer. Rugby even became a “core sport” for the Games – but only men’s sevens.
It took the success of Australia’s women’s sevens team to change the status quo. When the Gold Coast was awarded the 2018 Games it created a desire among the organisers and public to see their local heroes in action, with the CGF eventually agreeing.
So at 4.30pm on 13th April 2018 the Commonwealth Games Women’s Sevens will kick-off at the Robina Stadium – and, as at Rio, it will be the women who will get the sport underway.
However, unlike in Rio, rugby will be bringing down the curtain in Gold Coast, the three-day tournament being played over the final three days of competition.
The other difference is that – although no official announcement has been made – we are told that the women’s tournament will feature just eight teams – the five Commonwealth teams from the World Series (Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, and New Zealand), two from Africa (presumably South Africa and Kenya), and the best Commonwealth team from this year’s European Championship (which will almost certainly mean Wales).
The first session on the 13th April will apparently be women only, but the two session on the 14th, and the semi-finals and finals on the 15th, will feature both men’s and women’s matches.
This suggests that the first two rounds of women’s pool games will be on the opening day, with the final round of pool games split between the two (otherwise men’s) sessions on the 14th. The final day on the 15th will feature the semi-finals, finals and classification matches for both men’s and women’s events.
Gold Coast is not the only Commonwealth sevens – the Commonwealth Youth Games (for 14-18 year-old athletes) take place in Bermuda in a little under 100 days, starting on 29th July. Again, nothing has been announced (even though the Games are less than three months away), but we know it will be a six-team tournament and that Canada, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Wales have been invited to compete with Australia for their title. Wales have confirmed that they will definitely be sending their U18 team – the first time a European team has played in the Youth Games Sevens (Scotland were invited the first tournament at the 2015 Games in Samoa, but declined to take part).