Great Britain’s Olympic sevens hopes have been handed a major boost after securing funding from a commercial partnership with the National Lottery. The Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union and Scottish Rugby Union have confirmed an arrangement that means GB men’s and women’s teams will compete in the HSBC World Sevens Series before and after next summer’s delayed Tokyo Games.

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England, Wales and Scotland would normally compete separately on the world series stage.

The support is via a National Lottery promotional fund, and not money allocated for National Lottery Good Causes or by Camelot.

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And it is a considerable lift for the sevens game in Britain, given uncertainty this year caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The GB coaching structure has also been announced, with Charlie Hayter taking a team leader role and working as an assistant coach across men’s and women’s programmes.

Former England and USA assistant Tony Roques takes on the men’s head coach job, with Scott Forrest remaining in charge of the women’s squad.

And James Rodwell, who has made more international sevens appearances than any other player and been part of England’s coaching team since 2018, will have an assistant role with men’s and women’s squads.

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“We are delighted to have secured this partnership with The National Lottery, and thank National Lottery players,” RFU performance director Conor O’Shea said.

“This is a great opportunity for GB sevens and vital preparation ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games.

“We are very grateful to the individual unions and their partners for their co-operation, understanding and continued support.

“We know the current uncertain circumstances mean there will likely be challenges along the way, but we are very much looking forward to developing our plans further.”

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Nigel Railton, chief executive of National Lottery operator Camelot, added: “This clever partnership demonstrates how, by working together, we can have a real impact on a sport and boost the chances of gold in Tokyo next summer.

“The loss of spectators and cancellation of events has had such an impact on various sports. I am proud that we are able to support the GB sevens programme after a difficult year.”

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