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‘Never been a bigger year’: Why rugby sevens is set to reach new heights

By Finn Morton
L-R: Bryan Habana, Alan Gilpin and Abby Gustaitis at Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday. Picture: World Rugby/Mike Lee.

With the new-look SVNS Series nearing its first-ever Grand Final in Madrid, and with the Paris Olympics just around the corner, World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin believes this is the biggest year in the already-decorated history of sevens.

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As has been tradition on the circuit, Dubai hosted the first event of the revamped Series before the 12 best international teams in women’s and men’s sevens turned their focus to tournaments in Cape Town, Perth, Vancouver and Los Angeles.

It was then Hong Kong Stadium’s turn to welcome fans from all over the world across a phenomenal long weekend. The Series will soon head to Singapore from May 3-5 before the inaugural Grand Final and play-off events in Madrid from May 31 to June 2.

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Civitas Metropolitan Stadium, which is the home of Spanish football giants Atletico Madrid, will host the Grand Final to determine the HSBC SVNS champions and the four playoff sides who will have earned core status for the 2024/25 season.

But as Alan Gilpin told reporters on day three at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, “The excitement doesn’t stop there” with sevens set to get the Paris Olympics party started at Stade de France in 120 days.

“As you know, (there has) never been a bigger year for sevens. A really exciting reset in the Series, again hopefully you can agree we’ve seen some amazing rugby throughout the whole Series, particularly the last couple of days here,” Gilpin said.

“That continues into Singapore now where the league regular season winner will now be crowned, and then the excitement builds into Madrid where we have our end-of-season playoffs and grand finale.

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“The excitement doesn’t stop there because the reason it’s such a big year for sevens is we’ve got an incredible Paris Olympics coming up in 120 days’ time, so rugby sevens will kick off Paris 24. We’re the first sport to start the Games in 120 days from today.

“It’s a hugely exciting year for sevens. I think we’ve seen the players and the fans really step up to that. Delighted to be here and looking forward to the rest of a great day.”

SVNS Series veteran Charlotte Caslick is primed for a third Olympic Games in 2024 after an impressive season so far with Australia. Caslick, 29, was part of the trailblazing Aussie women’s side that claimed Olympic gold at the Rio Games in 2016.

That Olympic gold had an undeniable impact on sport in Australia. The Aussies became icons back home, with sevens inspiring many as it played a leading role in both the growth and promotion of women’s sport.

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World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin believes there has ‘never’ been a bigger year for the sport. Picture: World Rugby/Mike Lee.

As SVNS Series regular Isabella Nasser, who has enjoyed a breakout season with Australia in 2023/24, told RugbyPass last year, the success of that champion team was a motivating “turning point” as the Olympic hopeful switched her focus towards sevens.

Rugby sevens has come a long way in less than a decade. There are countless stories that could be told about how sevens has made a difference in the lives of people all over the world since becoming an Olympic sport.

“It’s been massive. Let’s just take the example of rugby sevens in Asia, we know that there is funding available to national governing bodies, not just in Asia but throughout the world, that wouldn’t be there but for Olympic status for sevens,” Gilpin explained.

“We had a brilliant debut in Rio in 2016, obviously Abby (Gustaitis – who was sitting next to Gilpin) was part of what we did in Tokyo. It was devastating to be in the Tokyo Games a year late with no fans… we’re so excited about Paris. It’s going to be an amazing six days.

“Paris will be our big platform, our kind of coming of age of rugby sevens in the Olympics. We’re in the Stade de France, we know it’s going to be full, it’s going to be buzzing for rugby, we get to kick off the Games.

“We’re in conversation with LA28, that’s why LA is such an important part of the sevens program for us. We’re in conversation with Brisbane 32 so we feel like we’re a proper Olympic citizen as a sport which is really important.

“That allows us to continue to drive funding into not just the elite end of the sport that we’re seeing here but more kids around the world have more opportunities to play.

“It’s a really important opportunity for the sport as a whole.”

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Abe 2 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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T
Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

17 Go to comments
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