Following the recently announced conclusion of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, World Rugby and its partners are continuing to focus on planning for the 2021 Series and the build-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are now less than one year away.
After a comprehensive consultation process and constructive dialogue with the host organisations, it has been decided that the combined men’s and women’s Dubai and Cape Town rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021, which were provisionally scheduled for November 26th-28th and December 4-6th 2020 respectively, will not take place due to the ongoing and dynamic global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decisions were taken in line with relevant government and international public health authority advice and with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public taking precedence. Both hosts are due to return to a full Series schedule beyond this season.
World Rugby and its partners continue to focus on delivering the remainder of the 2021 men’s and women’s Series, while working in full collaboration with all stakeholders to closely monitor the ongoing and challenging COVID-19 environment.
A working group chaired by World Rugby Executive Committee and Council member John Jeffrey and including representatives of host and participating unions, players and coaches, has been formed to review contingency plans and evaluate preparations for the safe, secure and impactful return to international rugby sevens competition, and to ensure that the product is the best it can be for hosts, participating unions, broadcasters and commercial partners.
The working group will also review opportunities for HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series events in 2021. The second division of international rugby sevens was launched in 2020 to promote the global growth of the game and provide a pathway for emerging nations to gain promotion to core status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, as Japan’s men successfully achieved after claiming the inaugural title in 2020.
With 21 of the 24 teams already qualified for the Olympic rugby sevens competition in Tokyo, planning for the Olympic Repechage final qualification event in the first half of 2021 is ongoing. Ireland Men’s Sevens are still one of the teams vying for the final qualification spot at the 2020 Games.
World Rugby Chief Executive, Brett Gosper, said: “While we share in the disappointment of players, teams, fans, hosts and everyone involved with the popular events in Dubai and Cape Town, this is a prudent decision taken with the health and wellbeing of the global rugby community and wider society as our top priority and guided by the relevant government and international public health authority advice. We look forward to welcoming these wonderful destinations back to the Series following this year’s hiatus.
“Through the Sevens Working Group we are continuing to work very hard in close collaboration with all stakeholders, including host and participating unions, International Rugby Players, and our commercial and broadcast partners to achieve our shared objective of a spectacular return to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series action as soon as it is safe to do so and we continue to plan and prepare for all remaining events in the 2021 Series.
“Our research demonstrates that rugby sevens is an important driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations where it attracts new fans with its dynamic, skilful and spectacular style. Rugby sevens is a key priority for our organisation and as we prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games hot on the heels of the success of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, 2021 has the potential to provide another huge step-change in the awareness and participation of rugby sevens around the globe.”
Both Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens finished 10th in the overall World Series standings following the curtailment of the 2020 season, and the squads are due to return to training at the IRFU High Performance Centre under IRFU Return To Rugby protocols next week.