October 9 - A new promotion and relegation system is to be introduced for this season's HSBC Seven World Series, which starts in the Gold Coast this week, it has been announced by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
From this weekend's first round, which is due to take place on October 12 and 13, a two-stage promotion and relegation process comes into effect.
It will see promotion to core team status for the 2014-2015 campaign decided at round seven of this season's competition, the Hong Kong Sevens in March, where 12 regional qualifiers will battle for the one promotion place on offer, in a separate competition to the main sevens event.
Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, United States and Wales are the nations who currently hold core status.
At the final round in London, in March of next year, the bottom ranked of these sides at the end of the competition, will lose its core status for the following season thus being effectively relegated and will have to take part in regional qualifying tournaments in order to regain its position.
The changes to the format are in part, influenced by the inclusion of rugby sevens onto the Olympic programme for Rio 2016, and is an attempt by the IRB to develop more opportunities and create a fairer, merit-based system for a wider range of countries to take part in top level sevens rugby.
"We are now well into our first four-year Olympic cycle for rugby sevens and it is important that the opportunity exists for all nations to progress to Series core team status if they are good enough," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"This new system guarantees that a new nation will be rewarded with that opportunity in the 2014-2015 Series.
"It also provides even more excitement for the fans attending these thrilling events, or following on television and online around the world."
Earlier this year, the IRB revealed that global viewing figures for the 2012-2013 HSBC Rugby Sevens World Series rose by five per cent from last year, with a record 4,504 hours of total airtime across 149 territories, with 38 broadcasters airing coverage to an estimated 390 million homes.
"Each year the HSBC Sevens World Series gets even more competitive with more countries emerging as potential cup winners at each tournament," said Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events at HSBC Holdings plc.
"It is exciting for fans and players alike and all contributes to the growth of the sport around the world."
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