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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Dubai Rugby Sevens: World Rugby hopes changes to World Cup format will give tournament 'more identity and character'

Tournament, to be held in San Francisco in July, will have more straight knockout fixtures, to differentiate it from the standard series tournaments

Seabelo Senatla of South Africa in action during the final against Fiji during the men's final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December 2016. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Seabelo Senatla of South Africa in action during the final against Fiji during the men's final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December 2016. Francois Nel / Getty Images

World Rugby believe the World Cup Sevens remains relevant even though it is less coveted than either of the Olympic Games or the Commonwealth Games titles for most teams.

The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens marks the start of a season that ends in July, and includes two major events independent from the 10-tournament series.

Almost all the leading sides from the series will participate when South Africa attempt to defend their Commonwealth title on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.

Then in July the World Cup will be staged in San Francisco, five years after it was last played, in front of paltry crowds in Moscow.

The tournament was held every four years until that point, but the cycle was altered because of the code’s acceptance into the Olympic movement in Rio last year.

Many predicted entrance into the Olympics would spell the end of the World Cup, as it could no longer be argued it represented the pinnacle of achievement in the code.

Neil Powell, the South Africa coach, said ahead of this weekend’s tournament in Dubai that the World Cup is not his side’s main priority, and that juggling playing resources till then will be difficult.

“Obviously the Olympics is the ultimate tournament because it is the biggest sporting tournament in the world,” Powell said.

“The Commonwealths is also a big one because it is a multi-sport tournament, so the World Cup is probably third for the players in the sevens team.

“It will be crucial to manage the players. I don’t think it would be possible to select a squad of 12 and expect them to play all 12 tournaments for you.”

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The San Francisco event will see the introduction of a new World Cup format, with more straight knockout fixtures, to differentiate it from the standard series tournaments.

Douglas Langley, the World Rugby competitions operations manager for sevens, hopes the changes will give the competition an identity of its own.

“The reason we have an innovative approach to it is to try to make it different to the Olympic Games, and to make it different from the series,” Langley said.

“We want it to have its own character and recognition that it is a rugby World Cup.

“We wanted a format that makes it a tournament towards a cup, rather than a regular sevens type tournament, where there are different levels going on. We are trying to give it more identity and character.”

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