While the party goes on in Hong Kong, World Rugby are preparing to see out changes to the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Next season the Series will shift from nine host venues to ten, but while some of the venues have been announced – Vancouver is in, Scotland is out, for example – the powers that be will meet up once the Hong Kong dust has settled and hash out where else the 2015-16 Sevens will be, with World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper saying: “You go through a rigorous tender process to choose the new cities – some of them have been released and more are to be released – hopefully there will be an announcement at the end of this Series.”
Mark Egan, World Rugby’s head of competitions and performance told the press about the choices: “We’re still working through the final stages of confirming (next year’s Sevens World Series) schedule. We will have a meeting here with the host unions on Monday to work through some of the logistics and we hope to make an announcement of the full schedule and all the host unions in the coming weeks.”
When Egan and Gosper were pressed on whether an expanded Series was a help or a hindrance, as sevens only has two guaranteed billing at the Olympics in 2016 and 2020 – after which, if the sport isn’t a hit it could conceivably be removed from the programme in 2024 – they reacted positively.
Gosper spoke of sevens being judged on the Olympics alone. “It’s the foundation; the underpinning of the sport,” he said of the Series. “But I think it will depend on how we perform as a spectacle in Rio and there’s a number of criteria we have to fulfil, but we’re confident we’re going to do well in Rio, so it’s not really a risk.”
Egan backed him up, saying: “Brett’s right: the Olympics needs to stand on its own and it’s a different environment to the World Series. We’re in an Olympic programme and we need to fit in with the Games – it’s a two week, multi-sport competition.
“Rugby has a window, and a schedule we’re very pleased with. We think it’s going to be successful in terms of fitting into the Olympic programme, but we’ll be judged in Rio on how well the sport performs in terms of athletic performance, so we make sure we have the best possible facilities and venue for the athletes and we’ll be judged on attendances, how popular the sport is, broadcast-wise, and in a number of criteria measurements that we use in terms of global interest.
“Yes, expanding the Series to ten tournaments and being in markets with potential growth for the sport is important to us as well, but I think the Series has shown over 15 or 16 years that it can stand on it’s own.”
They were unwilling to state whether Las Vegas would be keeping it’s place as a Series venue, but did insist that Vegas has been a very successful event within America, with Egan saying: “I think it’s found its place; it’s found its home.”
Gosper and Egan also revealed that the list of potential hosts for the Sevens World Cup in 2018 is down to two competing unions, but World Rugby will not name them. A final announcement will come in May.