World Rugby unveils £1.86million Tokyo Olympics lifeline for 7s as more tournaments cancelled

World Rugby have moved to shore up Rugby 7s following a bruising few days in which it was confirmed that next year’s Hamilton and Sydney rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series have been cancelled.

The Welsh Rugby Union scrapped its team in a radical move that mirrored the decision taken a few weeks earlier by the RFU with its England 7s teams. 

With fears growing over the preparations of teams for the showpiece 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, the game’s global governing body have unveiled an investment strategy fund valued at $2.5million US (£1.86m) that can be accessed by teams to cover the cost of trainm  ing camps, competition support, technical and sports science and medical programmes.

The sevens circuit has been on ice due to the coronavirus pandemic since early 2020, the Vancouver leg of its series the last to be played in early March. 

That lay-off has resulted in countries like England and Wales shelving their financial commitment to 7s in preference of managing 15s, but World Rugby are hoping their fund can now provide the impetus for other countries ahead of a 2021 season set to start in Hong Kong and Singapore next April, just months prior to the year’s big event in Tokyo.  

Planning for the Olympic repechage final qualification event in the first half of 2021 is also still ongoing, with the remaining two women’s and one men’s spots to be determined at a final qualification event.

Rugby officials in New Zealand have supported the decision to cancel Hamilton 2021 nearly five months out from its scheduled January 23/24 date. NZR general manager Chris Lendrum said: “We have had three great years in Hamilton and were planning to take the tournament back to Waikato Stadium again next January, but we understand and support the decision to cancel.”

Most of NZR’s contracted 7s players are set to be involved in the Farah Palmer Cup and Mitre 10 Cup, with an Oceania invitational tournament in early 2021 also being discussed.