IRB 7s Revamp

Date posted: 03/10/2012

With the HSBC IRB Sevens World Series due to kick off in just over 1 weeks’ time, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has confirmed the revamped Sevens World Series competition and revealed details of its new International Rugby Series as part of its latest efforts to develop the sport ahead of its debut at the 2016 Olympic Games.

For the 2012-13 season of the Sevens World Series, which kicks off on Australia’s Gold Coast on October 13-14, the number of core teams that participate in each of the nine rounds has increased from 12 to 15, following the qualification of Canada, Portugal and Spain. From the end of the 2012-13 Series, promotion and relegation from core team status will come into effect, with a pre-qualifying competition in Hong Kong and a final core team qualifier in London at the ninth and final round of the season.

The 2013 Hong Kong Sevens will feature 28 teams, an increase on the usual 24, and will comprise two distinct competitions. In the first, the 15 current core teams and the winner of the Asian Sevens Series will compete for the famous Hong Kong title and World Series points. In the second competition, 12 teams – two qualifiers from each of the six regional tournaments – will compete for places at the core team qualifying final in London. The London Sevens, the final round of the Series, will also feature two distinct tournaments, and a total of 20 teams.

In the first, the top 12-ranked sides in the Sevens World Series standings after round eight in Glasgow will compete for the London title, and final World Series points towards their overall tally. In the second, the 13th, 14th and 15th-ranked core teams after the Glasgow event will compete against five pre-qualified regional teams from Hong Kong, for the three available core team places on the 2013-14 Sevens World Series.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “As we enter our first four-year Olympic cycle for rugby sevens and build towards Rio 2016, it is important that the opportunity exists for all nations to progress to Series core team status if they are good enough. We are confident that this new system provides every nation competing in their regional qualifying tournament with a direct chance to gain core team status and compete on every round of the World Series. We are also accelerating towards our Olympic Games debut in Rio and this change to the Series structure underscores our commitment to ensuring a transparent opportunity-for-all pathway to the Games.”

Meanwhile, the IRB has announced that the Welsh town of Colwyn Bay will play host to matches in the inaugural International Rugby Series. Canada, Russia, Samoa, Tonga and USA will play Tests over two match days on November 9 and 17. The matches in Wales form part of an unprecedented programme of 2012 International Rugby Series matches between tier two and tier three nations aimed at increasing competitiveness ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. These matches are in addition to those between tier one and tier two/three nations within the 2012-2019 international tours and Test schedule, which has increased opportunities for emerging rugby powers to play the world’s best teams in June and November.

Lapasset added: “The introduction of the IRB International Rugby Series is an exciting and important development for rugby worldwide and underlines the IRB’s commitment to assisting tier two and three unions access a competition schedule that meets their strategic high performance needs and delivers IRB World Rankings opportunities.”

The World renowned Gilbert ball will again be used throughout the World Sevens Series, starting in Australia and leading through to the RWC 7s tournament in Russia.