WALES' Sevens side is to be replaced with a Great Britain team in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next season.

The move has been mandated by governing body World Rugby which has said Great Britain teams must entered in the men's and women's series from 2023, at the expense of the individual nations, as it is Team GB that competes at the Olympic Games.

The Olympics is fast becoming the major showpiece for Sevens and for rugby union on an international scale beyond the sport's core countries.

The Welsh Rugby Union, England's Rugby Football Union and Scottish Rugby have confirmed a joint approach for the venture.

 

It means that Great Britain will be a representative team in the World Series for men and women, replacing England, Scotland and Wales in the men’s competition and England in the women’s, although each union will retain individual Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup status, depending on qualification.

The 2023 Sevens Series, which starts this November in Hong Kong, will be used to determine the top four qualifying spots for the Paris 2024 Olympics. 

WRU performance director Nigel Walker said, “This is a real opportunity for Welsh players to reach an Olympic Games."

The Welsh men's sevens side, at the weekend, qualified for this September's Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Cape Town South Africa, while the men's and women's side are also competing at the Commonwealth Games - in which Wales is always represented in its own right - this month in Birmingham.

The Wales men's team won the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup.

The respective unions and World Rugby are in discussions regarding further playing opportunities for the England, Scotland and Wales teams.

Great Britain’s men won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics and were fourth in Tokyo last year, while GB women finished fourth on both of those occasions.

Prospects for the men’s and women’s GB squads looked bleak a year before Tokyo, though, amid significant cuts made to British sevens programmes.

 

Although funding was then obtained ahead of the Olympics via a commercial partnership struck between the RFU, Scottish Rugby, WRU and The National Lottery promotional fund, post-Tokyo uncertainty remained.

A statement released by the RFU said coaches and playing squads would be confirmed ahead of the World Series men’s opener in Hong Kong in November and women’s launch in Dubai the following month.

The statement added: “The mandating of Olympic teams from the 2023/24 season means all three unions acknowledge the importance of transferring to GB from the forthcoming campaign (2022/23) to embrace this new era with GB as the representative team on the World Series moving forward.”

RFU performance director Conor O’Shea said: “This is a seminal day for sevens.

“It is the right way forward, giving Team GB a real opportunity to go to the Olympic Games with the right preparation, to compete on a level playing field with other sevens programmes and most importantly, enables us all to give certainty to staff and players as to the future of the programme.

Great BritainThe Great Britain men’s squad won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“We will be working hard now to finalise the structures to support GB so we are ready to start the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Series with a bang, moving towards Paris 2024 and beyond.”

Scottish Rugby’s high performance director Jim Mallinder added: “We are acutely aware of Scotland’s heritage and passion for sevens rugby. As such, we remain fully committed to a Scotland sevens programme to develop our players and coaches.

“The move to a GB sevens team on the World Series will give Scottish players, both men and women, a unique opportunity to represent and compete on the largest global stage through the World Series and Olympic Games.”

The WRU's Walker added: “We will maintain male and female sevens programmes in Wales to develop players and coaches and make sure there is a pipeline of talent culminating in the opportunity to push for GB selection, and ultimately compete at an Olympics.”

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