IRB expands HSBC Sevens World Series ahead of Rio 2016
Wednesday, 08 February 2012
February 8 - The International Rugby Board (IRB) has unveiled a major new qualification pathway for the HSBC Sevens World Series as the sport looks to expand its global reach ahead of Rio 2016, when the rugby reappears at Olympic Games for the first time since Paris in 1924.
The announcement means that the number of core teams participating in each of the events on the World Series will increase from 12 to 15 for the 2012-2013 Series with the HSBC Hong Kong Sevens next month set to double up as the qualification tournament for the prestigious competition.
The HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, which are the only event on the calendar to feature 24 teams, will see three teams advance from a dedicated 12-team regional qualifier finale to secure core team status alongside Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, United States and Wales.
The qualifying showpiece in the Hong Kong Stadium, which takes place from March 23 to 25, will run alongside the 12-team competition contested by the current core teams.
"Rugby Sevens is going from strength to strength and we are seeing unprecedented interest in hosting, participation and sponsorship for the record-breaking HSBC Sevens World Series," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset (pictured), who was instrumental in getting rugby sevens into the Olympics at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Copenhagen in 2009.
"As we build towards Rio 2016 and our Olympic Games debut it is important that opportunities exist for all nations to progress to Series core team status if they are good enough.
"The new system provides every nation competing in their regional qualifying tournaments with a direct opportunity to gain core team status and compete on every round of the World Series.
"Hong Kong is an iconic event and unique in its 24-team status.
"We are delighted that it will also host the direct qualifying event to compete on the entire HSBC Sevens World Series.
"I would like to thank the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union for their full support, as well as our Regional Associations and all of our member Unions."
From the 2012-2013 season onwards, promotion and relegation from core team status will come into effect with a 16th invitational team selected by the IRB for each event outside of Hong Kong.
"The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) is pleased to be playing such an instrumental role in the continued development of the HSBC Sevens World Series," said HKRFU chairman Trevor Gregory.
"The opportunity for Hong Kong to host the qualification tournament for core team status is a direct and positive reflection on the history, internationalism and scale of the Hong Kong Sevens and continues to reinforce the prestige of our world-famous event."
The IRB has also confirmed that every round of the Series will now carry the same number of points.
Previously, the Hong Kong tournament carried more points than the other rounds of the Series but this will no longer be the case moving forward.
Details of the Hong Kong match schedule, which will also feature an IRB-sanctioned women's event, are set to be announced shortly.