World Rugby has today confirmed the repechage tournament for the Tokyo Olympic Games will take place in Monaco on 19-20 June, 2021. The decision was confirmed by the World Rugby Executive Committee following a comprehensive selection process and sees the event return to Stade Louis II, which also hosted the men’s competition prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
With 21 of the 24 teams set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics next year already confirmed, the final qualification event will feature 12 women’s and 12 men’s teams all vying to achieve the ultimate prize of securing the remaining two women’s and one men’s team places at the Olympic rugby sevens in Tokyo, which will take place on 26-31 July, 2021 at Tokyo Stadium.
The women’s competition will feature Argentina, Colombia, France, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa and Tunisia. The men’s tournament will involve Brazil, Chile, China, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Samoa, Tonga, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The event, which will be hosted by the Monaco Union in partnership with the Monegasque government and the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, will see the tenth edition of a youth rugby festival named ‘Sainte Devote Tournament’, hosting 16 teams from around the world in an under-12 mini sevens World Cup format run alongside the senior event.
Rugby sevens is expected to be one of the most highly anticipated events of the Tokyo Games, following the outstanding success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which captured the nation’s imagination with record-breaking broadcast audiences and huge numbers of new rugby fans across Japan and Asia.
The inclusion of rugby sevens for the first time in the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 had a profound effect on the sport, attracting an estimated 30 million new fans globally.
To ensure teams are as best prepared for Tokyo as possible, and thanks to support received from the International Olympic Committee, World Rugby is investing US$4 million into Olympic qualified unions’ sevens programmes and towards the costs of hosting inter-regional high-performance preparation events, the first of which take place in Madrid, Spain, on 20-21 and 27-28 February.
The high performance event being hosted by the Federación Española de Rugby (FER) and supported by World Rugby will feature up to 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams participating across two successive weekends.
The event in Madrid is the first of several high-performance focused opportunities being scheduled during the first half of 2021 to assist in the development and preparation of sevens teams ahead of the Olympic Games. Further details will follow in due course.
Each union that has qualified a team for the Tokyo 2020 Games has received US$100,000 per team in World Rugby funding to be directed towards rugby sevens squad training camps, competition support, technical and sports science and medical programmes.
The confirmation of the funding boost comes as collaborative contingency planning for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 continues to progress with ongoing discussions regarding the delivery of men’s and women’s Series events and preparations towards a safe, secure and impactful return to action.
Due to the restrictions currently in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and with positive developments in the fight against the disease beginning to emerge around the globe, the collective decision has been taken to move the scheduling of the Series events in Singapore and Hong Kong from initially proposed dates in April, to 29-30 October and 5-7 November, 2021 respectively, with Hong Kong acting as the Series finale.
Meanwhile it has been confirmed in coordination with the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) that two women’s events of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series will be played over consecutive weekends at the national rugby centre in Marcoussis on 15-16 and 22-23 May, 2021.
A further update on contingency scheduling for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 will be provided early in the new year, with a return to a full competition schedule anticipated for the 2022 edition.
It has also been decided that the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, launched in February 2020 to boost rugby sevens’ development across the globe and provide a pathway for promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, will take place again in late 2021 involving the best regional teams that are not core Series teams striving to claim promotion to the Series.
Japan were awarded the inaugural men’s Challenger Series title as they topped the rankings after the two completed events, claiming gold and bronze in Chile and Uruguay. Japan were promoted and will join the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 as the 16th core team.
The inaugural women’s Challenger Series event scheduled to take place in March 2020 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, was unable to take place due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore 2021 will represent the first women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series event.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The Olympic Games represent the greatest single opportunity for the growth of rugby sevens around the globe and we are excited by the opportunity to build on the outstanding success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. Following the sport’s thrilling introduction at the Rio 2016 Games, we are preparing for rugby sevens to once again be a star attraction at the Olympics in Tokyo, inspiring millions of new fans across Asia and around the world and we are delighted to confirm Monaco as host of the World Rugby Sevens Repechage tournament.
“We continue to work closely together with all host organisations, unions and regions in a spirit of collaboration and teamwork to ensure we provide players, coaches and teams with the very best high-performance preparation opportunities possible on the road to Tokyo next year. This includes US$4 million of financial support for rugby sevens’ programmes within Olympic qualified unions and the provision of high-performance training and competition opportunities during the first half of 2021, beginning in Madrid in February.
“While paying close attention to the ongoing, dynamic and uniquely challenging circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, we are continuing to work hard on the contingency planning for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 and would like to thank our commercial, broadcast and host organisation partners for their unwavering support during this unprecedented scenario. We look forward to returning to a full HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 to drive the sport forwards and build on the increased interest and awareness that will be created by the Olympic rugby sevens in 2021.”
Jonathan Castleman, HSBC Group Head of Brand & Brand Partnerships said: “Like many sports, rugby sevens has had a difficult year. Although there’s likely to be further challenges ahead, the next twelve months can represent a time of optimism and opportunity for the sport at every level. With Tokyo on the horizon and the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series set to return, rugby sevens will once again take its place at the pinnacle of global sport and serve as a reminder of its ability to bring us together. We remain a committed partner of the fans, players, coaches and stakeholders at the heart of this great sport and stand ready to help it build back stronger than ever in 2021 and beyond.”
Earlier this month the International Olympic Committee confirmed rugby sevens’ place on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games sports programme and World Rugby is proud to be part of the first completely gender equal Olympics. Rugby sevens will also feature at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The future of rugby sevens is bright as the short format game continues to grow, engaging and attracting ever greater global audiences. In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series saw record-breaking fan engagement figures with a year-on-year increase of 64 per cent across video views to 198 million, and the Series attracted more than 749,800 attendees to its events globally.
The growth trend continued in broadcast viewing figures with Futures Sport & Entertainment reporting a 20 per cent increase in total cumulative average audience for the year-to-date in 2020, with 13.9 million fans reached compared to 11.7 million by the same stage in 2019.