Cheers to Phil: Waugh's leadership the missing ingredient but Wallabies could do with a 'secret sauce'
G'day Rugby fans, Barry here, and let me tell you, the latest move by Rugby Australia is like a breath of fresh air in…
The World Rugby Sevens Series made some major changes earlier this week, namely losing a bunch of vowels, rebranding to ‘HSBC SVNS’.
Its target market is social media, but thus far, it’s not exactly popular online.
With sevens now an Olympic sport, and attracting interest from non-traditional markets, it was disappointing, albeit not surprising, when World Rugby announced the number of nations in the series would be cut from 15 to 12, to align with the Olympic competition model.
After ending up on the bottom of the pile at the end of the 2022-23 Series, Uruguay, Kenya, and Japan were all relegated to the new Challenger Series, all of which are widely considered disappointing losses to the top level of sevens for one reason or another.
However this would turn out to be just the beginning of the cuts, with tournaments in New Zealand, France, and Great Britain now all scratched from the Series.
These three traditional rugby markets have been shunned in favour of an Asia- and North America-heavy schedule similar to that plied by the unstoppably ascendant Formula 1.
Tournaments in Dubai, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Madrid will make up the bulk of a rebranded Series of which the profitability of sevens is at the forefront.
The more customary rugby destinations of Cape Town and Perth can count themselves lucky they are (relatively) close to the rest of the globe, which has no doubt gone a long way to securing their spot in the future of the Series.
New Zealand being the spiritual heart of rugby was not enough to save the Hamilton Sevens, while France and Great Britain too received a rude awakening as to the priorities of World Rugby for the future of the Series.
The two unlucky European rugby powerhouses have likely been sacrificed from the schedule due to a lack of “summer vibes” reflected by their event, a concept the HSBC SVNS is investing heavily in, mentioning the phrase no less than four times in the launch of the rebranded Series.
While sevens has always attracted those looking for a “festival” and “experience” more than the rugby itself, fans can be forgiven for feeling a slight dissociation, thanks to just how heavy an emphasis World Rugby has placed on these qualities in its relaunch of the Series.
More overtly positive is the announcement the Series will now span six months, as opposed to seven.
While the Series has always worked hard to declutter itself from the rest of the rugby calendar, this has resulted in an incomprehensible, stop-start format which has made it hard for those looking to engage with the sport.
With most other sports in the world working to a predictable daily or weekly schedule, sevens fans are often forced to wait up to a month or more for the next tournament to roll around.
This results in the squandering of momentum built off back-to-back tournaments, such as Dubai and South Africa, and New Zealand and Australia, as exciting narratives die on the vine, forgotten by the time the next event comes about, having lost space in our head to the other formats of the game.
While six months is hardly all that more compact than seven, it lays the important groundwork for it to become denser in the future; maybe one day we can hope for a two-and-a-half-month sprint.
Fortunately, the revamped format also brings about gender parity, with sevens fans now able to expect both men and women at each tournament.
Of course, not all fans will tune into every game played by both genders each tournament, but their coexistence makes it easier to do so, the same way most casual tennis fans are at the very least aware of who won both the men’s and women’s singles in Wimbledon.
And let’s be honest – is there really any acceptable answer for why one tournament is not hosting both the men’s and women’s Series when another is?