After the cancellation of last year’s tournament, European Sevens returns this weekend for the first round of the rebranded European Championship, in Lisbon.
The European Sevens Championship – the rebranded top tier of European Sevens – begins this weekend in Lisbon.
However, for undisclosed reasons, five of the top tems, including three of the continents five World Series teams are absent from the competition.
Despite the efforts of Rugby Europe to include them in the series, England, France and Ireland are not taking part. Instead, England will be forming the core of the Great Britain squad travelling to Dublin to take on Ireland in the HPC International 7s, following on from the series that took place in Staffordshire last month. France will be preparing at home for the Olympic repechage, scheduled for Monaco on 19th June.
These three World Series teams are the only teams missing from this year’s competition. Italy and the Netherlands are also missing and are unlikely to play any sevens this year.
The top seeds in Lisbon are – in order - Russia (champions in 2019), Poland (4th in 2019), Scotland (5th), Spain (6th) and Belgium (7th).
In addition, Germany and Romania – the top two in the 2019 Trophy – are promoted, Wales (11th in 2019) are reprieved from relegation, and Portugal – 7th in the 2019 Trophy – are promoted in order to host the first round in place of expected hosts, France.
Ukraine, 12th in 2019, are relegated and will play in the Trophy.
The nine-team tournament will be played over three rounds, meaning that all teams will play six games overall – the same as they would normally play.
The draw for the first round is:
Pool A: Russia, Germany, Romania
Pool B: Poland, Belgium, Wales
Pool C: Scotland, Spain, Portugal
After the first round the teams will be re-organised into three more pools:
Pool D: Winner of A, Runner-up of C, Third in B
Pool E: Winner of B, Runner-up of A, Third in C
Pool F: Winner of C, Runner-up of B, Third in A
Two matches in the second round will be played on Saturday, and the third round on Sunday morning.
Points won in the first two rounds will be added together to produce a 1-9 ranking. The top three will then play off in Pool G for the championship, the next three in Pool H for places 4-6, and the remaining teams will play for places 7-9. There will not be a “final”.
It is a complex tournament, but it seems improbable that there will be any winner other than Russia, particularly as they will have home advantage for the second leg on 25-26 June. Spain – their greatest rivals – will not be at full strength with women's coach, Pedro de Matías , recognising that the tournament will not be easy. "We are looking forward to it," he says, "but we have not had an official competition for a long time and we have a very significant challenge."
In addition, Scotland and Wales will be missing their top players, who will be with Great Britain in Dublin.
With five of the top ranked teams missing there have been no statements from Rugby Europe about whether any teams will be relegated, or whether any will be promoted from the Trophy for 2022.