Source: Mike Lee KLC Fotos

GB Sevens – An Uncertain Future

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The Team GB group who reached the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics must all feel that the show is only just beginning.

They had an impossibly difficult run-in to the biggest 7s tournament the world can offer; they nearly reached the peak. Now the future seems worryingly unfocused.

The Hong Kong Sevens, one of the greatest jewels in 7s crown, have just been cancelled. They were due in November after being postponed from April. It means that there is no women’s tournament till next December in Dubai.

Between now and then central decisions have to be made. Can a permanent GB squad be established? How can it be funded?

Scott Forrest has already stated that he would like the operation to continue. No doubt he would be first choice to take on a permanent appointment as head coach.

As the thirteen players review the events of the past two years and their unique experiences in Tokyo, will they all be happy to commit themselves to 7s for the foreseeable future?

It is the lack of competition that worries most. The HSBC World Series has built up a head of steam over recent years. But the women’s programme still leaves sizeable gaps in the diary. World Rugby is under pressure to offer them the same number of tournaments as the men.

But the programme WR has just published reveals the inequalities still visible. Between now (August 2021) and the end of the year there will be five men’s tournaments and two women’s.

WR claims that player safety is its first concern. It is reacting to the spread of variants of the virus and ongoing travel restrictions. So like Hong Kong the tournament in Marcoussis, postponed last spring, will not now take place this year.

Some potentially good news

Canada is offering two Fast Four tournaments next month (Vancouver September 18-19; Edmonton 25-26), the visitors to stay for a fortnight. But the nations to be invited will not be known till next week. No doubt British players would be keen to take part. Rugby Canada is not yet able to announce precise details of the restrictions to be imposed in Vancouver and Edmonton. Teams would use the same hotels but eat separately and be tested regularly. The same old routines with a twist.

Decisions, decisions

These are some of the considerations the GB squad must weigh up, singly and as a group. Are they prepared to continue with such an uncertain programme, when in all probability they could find regular employ in the Allianz Premier 15s, due to start next month?

Much will depend on the readiness of the three unions involved to discuss the matter thoroughly and come to a firm decision. But the issues involved are intricate and expensive. There is always the fall-back position of the English, Scottish and Welsh 7s squads continuing on their own, but after the experiences of the last months and years, that would be a backward step.

As I write, it’s 120 days till the first HSBC World Series round in Cape Town.