Little preparation for Olympic sevens teams

All Blacks Sevens captain Tim Mikkelson scores a try prior to the World Series shut down in March...
All Blacks Sevens captain Tim Mikkelson scores a try prior to the World Series shut down in March last year. Photo: Getty Images
The men's rugby sevens at the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead with the teams having not played a World Series match for 16 months.

The dates for a delayed and condensed 2021 Series were announced yesterday.

Women players will have a chance to warm up for Tokyo with back-to-back tournaments in Paris in May but the first men's event is not scheduled until October.

World Rugby announced that five women's and four men's rounds have been finalised, with the addition of two more men's events still under discussion.

After the Paris women's events on May 15-16 and May 22-23 the Series takes a break for the Olympic repechage in June - the final qualification event ahead of the Tokyo Games which begins on July 23.

With 21 of the 24 teams already qualified, the remaining two women's and one men's spots will be determined in Monaco on June 19-20.

The men's series is currently scheduled to begin in Singapore on October 29-30, followed by joint men's and women's rounds in Hong Kong (November 5-7), Dubai (December 3-4), and the finale in Cape Town (December 10-12). Additional events could be held in London and Vancouver after the Olympics.

The governing body also confirmed it was investing $4 million into Olympic qualified unions' Sevens programmes and towards setting up high-performance events to give teams some playing time ahead of the Olympics. The first of these was held in Madrid last month, with another scheduled for Los Angeles at the end of June.

New Zealand are the defending World Series champions of both the men's and women's competitions after the 2020 campaign was called off with five of the eight women's rounds and six of the 10 men's rounds completed prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan will join as a core team following their promotion from the Challenger Series in 2020, while it has been agreed that in this Olympic year, the England, Scotland and Wales teams will combine to compete as Great Britain in both the men’s and women's Series in 2021.

This will create two additional invitational places for teams to participate in the men’s 2021 Series events, with teams to be announced in due course.

Britain lost to Fiji in the final of the inaugural 2016 Olympic men's event, with Australia winning the women's gold.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of players, fans and the wider community remains our top priority," World Rugby interim Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said in a statement.

"All stakeholders will continue to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and work closely with host governments and health agencies to ensure a safe, secure and highly impactful return.

"As a key driver of game growth, particularly in emerging markets, the continued success of Rugby Sevens and the Sevens Series is a strategic priority for World Rugby.

"This unique Olympic year provides a huge opportunity to reach new audiences around the world and introduce them to the speed, skill and excitement of rugby sevens, encouraging them to become future fans of the Series."

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