England, Scotland and Wales have secured funding to field Great Britain men's and women's Sevens teams for the 2021 season ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The deal has been made possible by a commercial partnership with The National Lottery.
The men’s and women’s GB Sevens teams will compete in the HSBC World Sevens Series in the build-up to next summer’s Olympic Games and then will continue for the climax of the 2021 season post-Tokyo, a move that had been touted in the past but had never gotten off the ground.
Players are expected to be contracted and while the news will be widely welcomed by English players who had their 7s contracts cut earlier this year, there will be some headaches around players who have transitioned back into the 15s game and may have had an eye on the World Cup next summer in New Zealand.
On the coaching side, Charlie Hayter will take the Team Leader role while also being an assistant coach across both men’s and women’s programmes. Scott Forrest remains head coach for the women’s side, having been in lead roles with Scotland Women’s 7s since 2012.
James Rodwell, the most capped rugby sevens player of all time and part of the England coaching team since 2018, will complete the coaching set up, assisting across both the men’s and women’s programmes.
RFU Performance Director Conor O’Shea said: “We’re delighted to have secured this partnership with The National Lottery and thank National Lottery players. This is a great opportunity for GB Sevens and vital preparation ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games. We’re very grateful to the individual unions and their partners for their co-operation, understanding and continued support. We know the current uncertain circumstances mean there will likely be challenges along the way but we’re very much looking forward to developing our plans further.”
Scottish Rugby Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder said: “The opportunity for our players to be able to put their hands up for potential Olympic selection is something we very much welcome, as part of a GB Sevens squad. It is our intention that beyond this season, both of our Scotland 7s programmes, remain unaffected by this development and very much look forward to qualifying for and sending our strongest squads to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.”
WRU Operations Director and Team GB Board Director Julie Paterson said: “This is a great example of the Home Unions coming together for the betterment of the game. A lot of hard work has been put in to make this possible, and the level of collaboration from the three unions and our commercial partners has been excellent. The initiative will no doubt provide Team GB with the best chance of success in Tokyo and on the World Series.”