Seven rounds in “seven iconic global destinations” over seven months, with 12 men’s and women’s sides competing at each event 

New Sevens World Series format takes shape

It’s really happening – the Sevens World Series is changing from next year to take in seven rounds in “seven iconic global destinations” over seven months, with 12 men’s and women’s sides competing alongside each other at each event.

World Rugby have today announced that they will be simplifying their approach to sevens, to offer more of a ‘sportainment’ model of ‘three-day festivals’ aimed at the 18 to 34 market. It chimes with what World Rugby’s chief revenue and fan engagement officer Richard Heaselgrave told us in an exclusive interview in August, saying “we will never ever run out of ideas for rugby fans” as the sport’s governing body looks to modernise and uncover new fans.

All seven events on the revamped Series will be unveiled in the coming months – though Rugby World understands that Hong Kong and Dubai are guaranteed to remain as hosts. But Heaselgrave tells us of the competition to be on the circuit: “You’ve got the hosts that have traditionally been rugby sevens hosts and then you’ve got the interest from governments and cities now, that would broaden the content of the event.”

World Rugby have created their EventsCo which will take over a larger responsibility for the delivery of the events (including financing) alongside hosts. So in the future World Cups and international competitions like the planned WXV women’s tournament and potential non-contact offerings, can be done on a bigger scale, it is suggested. 

With that in mind Heaselgrave adds of the bidding process: “That component means being able to say to cities in America or in Spain or in Asia or anywhere around the world, ‘we’re only going to do seven of these, they’re going to be much bigger, and you can be in.’ It’s been pretty appealing.”

New Sevens World Series format takes shape

Michaela Blyde scores for the Black Ferns sevens (Getty Images)

The two main criteria for selection, we are told, are “One: can we make money from it to invest back into player salaries? And number two: is it a destination that you want to go to, that you just go ‘oh my word that is just stunning!’” The intention, also, is “following the sun.”

Player salaries are another element of this, with the governing body promising players will receive equal participation fees for men and women, with a “70% uplift in World Rugby’s investment in participation fees”. 

With each of the seven legs of the series having their own month to own, and three days of competition within it, there could be quite a bit of space either side of events. However, World Rugby believe this makes the narrative for fans all the clearer with events no longer jammed together in blocks. It is why the final leg of the series will have a ‘Grand Finale’ to crown series champions and host play-offs between Challenger Series sides and the lowest ranked World Series sides, for promotion-relegation. 

In their official announcement, World Rugby say of the Finale: “(It) will see the top eight ranked teams after six rounds compete to be crowned Series champions, while the teams ranked ninth to 12th will join the top four ranked teams from the Challenger Series in a high stakes relegation play-off competition which will see four teams secure their places in the next edition of the Series. The four unsuccessful teams will go into regional competitions to qualify for the next Challenger Series, which comprises of 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams competing in the second level of international rugby sevens.”

With the number of teams on the series going down from 16 to 12, the hope is the quality of the Challenger tier goes up.

New Sevens World Series format in a nutshell

  • Remodelled Sevens World Series to include seven rounds, in seven “iconic global destinations”, across seven months, kicking off in December 2023
  • Fully combined and men’s and women’s Series with number of men’s teams reduced from 16 to 12, aligning with the Olympic competition model
  • Annual ‘Grand Finale’ event will crown Series champions and offer pathway opportunity for four men’s and women’s teams to achieve promotion from the Challenger Series
  • Three-day, festival-style events targeted at “engaging with youth culture”
  • Hosts, competition dates and new brand identity to be unveiled “in the coming months”

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