The World Sevens Series is back!
After coming to a halt following the Sydney 7s in February last year, a new five-tournament series for the 2021 calendar year as been announced by World Rugby.
The first two back-to-back events in Marcoussis (15-16 and 22-23 May) had been announced a few weeks ago, and these will be the only pre-Olympic events.
After the Games there will be three “double-header” rounds in Hong Kong (5-7 November), Dubai (3-4 December), and Cape Town (10-12 December).
England will be replaced by “Great Britain” for the entire series, including post-Olympic events, but there is no suggestion that this will continue beyond 2021.
The parallel men’s event gets an extra round in Singapore in October, with discussions ongoing about two more rounds – but nothing extra appears likely for the women’s calendar.
Missing from the annoncement is any mention of whether or not there will still be relegation, not of any "Challenger" events to decide possible promotion.
The lack of pre-Olympic playing opportunities remains an issue. World Rugby – with IOC assistance - is investing US$4 million into Olympic qualified unions’ sevens programmes and preparation events, such as the Madrid 7s last month.
Other Olympic warm-up tournaments are also planned including another double-header at Los Angeles over the weekend of 25-27 June. More announcements on this are promised.
The health and wellbeing of players, spectators (if any) and the wider community remains a top priority, says World Rugby, and they are working with host organisations, national governments and health agencies “to try to ensure the safe and secure delivery of the events”.
World Rugby Interim Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Today’s announcement of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 schedule marks a significant and exciting moment for rugby seven’s re-emergence from the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic and we thank HSBC and all Series partners for their unwavering support, and host organisations and participating unions for their hard work, patience and spirit of collaboration.
“As a key driver of game growth, particularly in emerging markets, the continued success of rugby sevens and the Sevens Series is a strategic priority for World Rugby and our US$4 million funding to support sevens programmes is a clear demonstration of our commitment. This unique Olympic year provides a huge opportunity to reach new audiences around the world and introduce them to the speed, skill and excitement of rugby sevens, encouraging them to become future fans of the Series.
“Above all, the health, safety and wellbeing of players, fans and the wider community remains our top priority and all stakeholders will continue to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and work closely with host governments and health agencies to ensure a safe, secure and highly impactful return to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.”
HSBC Group Head of Brand and Brand Partnerships Jonathan Castleman added: “As long-term global partner of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, we are delighted that the green shoots of recovery are starting to show with today’s announcement of the 2021 series schedule.
“We are moving into an exciting period of opportunity. As we build back there is a chance to return better than ever before and for the sport to be more equal, more innovative and more inclusive of players, fans and communities from all around the world - a challenge we look forward to taking on alongside our partners."
Given the unique and unprecedented nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its various international travel restrictions and quarantine measures, it is accepted that some teams may not be able to travel or participate in all 2021 Series events. Where possible, World Rugby will invite replacement teams to fill the places of any core Series team unable to participate in a Series event.