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Coronavirus and Olympics delay expected to severely hamper Rio champions

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The Australian Womens Sevens team.

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Murray Wenzel / AAP

Rugby Australia’s Olympic sevens program could be downsized as the code forecasts long-term financial pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


The World Series is currently on hold and the Olympics postponed until next year, where the women will be defending their Rio gold medal.

But with deals struck around the originally-planned 2020 Games, many players will be off-contract before then.

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Rugby Australia faces a potential $120 million revenue hit if no games are played this year, with players agreeing to an average 60 per cent wage cut on Monday, 75 per cent of RA staff stood down and those remaining on reduced pay.

Castle expects player salaries to be reduced over the long term too, while she admitted the full-time men’s and women’s sevens high performance environment in Sydney may no longer be viable.

“There is an absolute commitment from the RA board for teams to compete in the Olympics and HSBC Sevens,” she said.

“But for the program to get there … a more decentralised program that’s going to be more cost-effective (could be the solution).


“Those are all the types of discussions we’ll be having with the sevens players to make sure that they can defend gold medals at the Olympics … we are going to make some decisions that will be different to a pre-COVID-19 world. ”

Hoping to rekindle broadcast deal talks in coming weeks, Castle says the cost cuts and expected financial support from World Rugby would see the organisation through until September.

Castle is treading carefully around a return of any sort, with a domestic version of Super Rugby on hold and Wallabies Tests in July unlikely.


Tests and Super Rugby games between Australia and New Zealand later this year are an option that “makes sense”, but Castle has forecast more suffering to come regardless of how quickly they return.

“The world is not what it was and there is going to be reduced revenues coming in and ultimately we have to … cut our cloth to match our revenue,” she said.

“So there are some difficult conversations that need to be had but they need to be had with a plan in place.”

Murray Wenzel / AAP


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