The 2021 HSBC World Rugby 7s Series has gotten off to a deflating start, World Rugby announcing the cancellation of the opening rounds of the men’s and women’s series in Dubai and Cape Town due to the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand were only recently confirmed as men’s and women’s champions in the 2020 season after a number of tournaments were cancelled due to the pandemic outbreak. 

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However, rather than plan ahead in the hope that the outlook will soon somehow improve, World Rugby have made an early call to cancel the two new-season combined opening events, the November 26-28 round one leg in Dubai and the following weekend’s round two scheduled for Cape Town on December 4-6.  

A statement on the cancellations read: “The decisions were taken in line with relevant government and international public health authority advice and with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public taking precedence. Both hosts are due to return to a full series schedule beyond this season.

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RugbyPass brings you the latest edition of The Breakdown, the Sky Sport NZ TV rugby programme – Bill Beaumont features on the show from Spain

“World Rugby and its partners continue to focus on delivering the remainder of the 2021 men’s and women’s series while working in full collaboration with all stakeholders to closely monitor the ongoing and challenging Covid-19 environment. 

“A working group chaired by World Rugby executive committee and council member John Jeffrey – and including representatives of host and participating unions, players and coaches – has been formed to review contingency plans and evaluate preparations for the safe, secure and impactful return to international rugby sevens competition, and to ensure that the product is the best it can be for hosts, participating unions, broadcasters and commercial partners.

“The working group will also review opportunities for HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series events in 2021. The second division of international rugby sevens was launched in 2020 to promote the global growth of the game and provide a pathway for emerging nations to gain promotion to core status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, as Japan’s men successfully achieved after claiming the inaugural title in 2020.

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“With 21 of the 24 teams already qualified for the Olympic rugby sevens competition in Tokyo, planning for the Olympic repechage final qualification event in the first half of 2021 is ongoing.”

It was Tuesday on The Breakdown, the Sky Sport NZ TV rugby programme, that World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont outlined how rugby must change its thinking in the Covid era. “We are in a position at the moment where players and teams have been travelling the globe and I don’t think this will return in the near future, so what we have to do is be creative and work together with our partners,” he said on the show.

Meanwhile, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper added in the sevens statement: “While we share in the disappointment of players, teams, fans, hosts and everyone involved with the popular events in Dubai and Cape Town, this is a prudent decision taken with the health and wellbeing of the global rugby community and wider society as our top priority and guided by the relevant government and international public health authority advice.”

David Quinlan, International Rugby Players head of legal and player welfare David Quinlan, said: “Players are again disappointed to see two more major tournaments cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but these decisions are made for the right reasons. We’re working with our player reps, World Rugby and other stakeholders through the sevens format working group to ensure that we get as meaningful and complete a schedule in place for this coming season as possible.”

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