Dramatic Sevens format change angers players, coaches

Seabelo Senatla (Getty)
Seabelo Senatla (Getty)

Cape Town - World Rugby faces a rebellion after making dramatic format changes to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series men’s tournaments in order to accommodate women’s tournaments.

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The recent Cape Town Sevens was held over three days - and not two as was previously the case - due to the addition of a women’s tournament.

According to the Rugby Rocks website, while a women’s tournament will also be played at the next two stops on the calendar - in Hamilton, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia - for the first time, those events will stay as two-day long tournaments.

As a result, the Cup quarter-final stage of the men’s tournament will be scrapped, with the winners of the four pools progressing straight to the semi-finals.

Previously, the top two teams in each pool after the group phase earned the right to contest the quarter-finals.

According to Rapport newspaper, players and coaches are furious about the changes and want to file an official grievance against World Rugby with the International Court of Sport Arbitration (CAS).

One overseas coach told Rapport: ‘Players and coaches are angry. Not only do the changes negatively affect the draw for the Olympics, but it also jeopardises the integrity of the game and the enjoyment of playing.

‘The players have no problems with the current format - where each team earns points in each tournament.

‘The International Rugby Players Association (IRPA) is aware of the dissatisfaction and we are considering approaching CAS to get involved. It could also involve the Olympics committee.

‘Unfortunately, all the decisions were made by a few individuals at World Rugby who ignored the advice and input of the players, coaches and high-performance managers in an attempt to take the series forward.’

Next year's Hamilton leg will take place from January 25-26, while the Sydney stop is scheduled for February 1-2.

The Springbok Sevens side will contest Pool B alongside Kenya, England and Japan at the Hamilton Sevens. The Blitzboks faced both Kenya and England at the first tournament of the 2019/20 season in Dubai last month - and had no trouble beating both en route to the title.

At the Cape Town tournament the Blitzboks were drawn alongside Japan and also brushed aside their Far East foes with minimal fuss.

The Blitzboks face - on paper - a straight-forward Cup semi-final should they top their pool as per the new regulations, with one of France, Ireland, Canada or Spain awaiting Neil Powell's men in the playoffs.

South Africa and New Zealand are currently level at the top of the standings with 41 points apiece.

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