Next season is set to be the biggest yet for the sport of rugby sevens, with new tournaments added to the annual championship.
The women’s World Rugby Sevens Series is being expanded to include eight tournaments for the first time ever, with Dubai, Cape Town, New Zealand, Sydney, Paris, and Hong Kong — the latter traditionally seen as the competition’s premier destination — all running parallel events for men and women.
Glendale, Colorado, and Langford, British Columbia, will both remain as standalone events in the women’s competition, while the men’s championship will retain the same 10-tournament structure for at least the next four years.
The host cities will remain the same for the men’s series, except for the US leg of the tour — which has been well-attended in Las Vegas for the past decade — where the location for future events is yet to be announced.
More than 749,800 fans attended sevens tournaments around the world last season — the shortened, fast-paced cousin of 15-aside rugby — with the sport also boasting a live broadcast viewership of 12.6 million in 2017-18.
“This is an exciting time for sevens as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is set to break new ground with more combined rounds than ever before on the circuit, as Cape Town, Hamilton and Hong Kong welcome women’s world series teams for the first time,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.
“We are delighted to see the women’s series expand to eight rounds over the next four-year cycle, an historic move that will provide more high quality competitive international playing opportunities for women’s sevens teams.
“Since the men’s series’ expansion to 10 rounds in 2015, we have seen the competition become increasingly competitive on the pitch from a team perspective while also continuing to grow in popularity among global audiences.
“We are looking forward to seeing continued growth and evolution of the world series in each territory over the next four years.”
Olympic inclusion at the Rio Games has also benefited the growth of sevens, with teams this season vying for qualification at Tokyo 2020.
USA currently leads the men’s series with four tournaments remaining having never previously won the overall championship.
New Zealand’s Black Ferns are unbeaten in the first three tournaments of the women’s series, meaning they are well-placed to win the title back from rival Australia when the season concludes in Paris.