Olympic gold-winning sevens coach Ben Ryan has said that these are “worrying times” in the United Kingdom amid sevens’ uncertain future. It comes after 21-year-old Caleb Clarke became one of the latest uncapped players to be called up to the All Blacks squad having previously come through the New Zealand Sevens programme.

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New Zealand has a long history of not only dominating the sevens circuit, but also using the format as a vehicle to produce future All Blacks. The former England and Fiji coach Ryan said on Twitter that “Sevens can be such a fantastic tool available to a Union and the All Blacks use it better than anyone else.”

However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial pressures that unions find themselves under, the Rugby Football Union cut their funding of the national sevens team last month. Meanwhile, the Welsh Rugby Union recently suspended the Wales Sevens team for the foreseeable future.

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Ryan went on to say: “Worrying times for 7s in the UK but still time to have a re-think for those unions and turbo charge their national XV’s programmes.”

New Zealand’s approach to sevens differs from most of the northern hemisphere, and while there has never necessarily been a relationship between the two formats in the UK, for instance, Ryan is not the only person to object to the decision made by the RFU. That is not to say that players have not played both sevens and 15s, but it is not as frequent as it is in New Zealand.

The Blues winger Clarke is just the latest member of a long list of sevens players that have been called up to the All Blacks. In the current squad alone, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Ardie Savea are just some of the players who have also represented their country in the seven-man format. This is a system that will continue, and is one that many feel could be replicated.

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