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World Rugby launches Sevens Challenger Series

The captain's photo prior to the 2019 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong (by Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby)

World Rugby has today (Tuesday) unveiled a new competition designed to encourage the further development of the sport’s sevens format, with the first events to take place in Chile and Uruguay.

The World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series will be launched in February 2020 with the goals of developing the next generation of rugby players and taking sevens to new nations in the wake of its successful Olympic debut at the Rio 2016 Games.

The men’s series will feature 13 core national teams from the six World Rugby regions who will compete over two rounds alongside three invitational teams.

The top eight core teams after the two rounds will then compete in the final playoff tournament for a spot in the World Rugby Sevens Series, replacing the bottom placed core team in the World Series in the following season. World Rugby said this promotion and relegation system will provide a clear and consistent development pathway for teams.

The two legs of the inaugural World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series will be played in Viña del Mar, Chile on February 15-16; and Montevideo, Uruguay on February 22-23.

Thirteen nations have earned their place in the Challenger Series by finishing as the top ranked nations who are not already competing in the World Rugby Sevens Series at their respective regional sevens competitions in 2019.

The teams who will compete in the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series are Brazil, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Tonga, Uganda, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. They will be joined by three invitational teams from the Americas in Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay.

The final playoff tournament will be hosted alongside the World Rugby Sevens Series event in Hong Kong on April 3-5.

World Rugby said a separate announcement for a women’s Challenger Series will be made in due course. The sport’s world governing body said it is heavily committed to growing the women’s game, pointing to the fact the women’s competition on the World Rugby Sevens Series has expanded from six to eight rounds this season.

The governing body said the new competition will also help to prepare teams for sevens’ second appearance at the Olympic Games during Tokyo 2020. World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series participants Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Mexico, Tonga, Uganda and Zimbabwe will all take part in the Olympic repechage in June to try and secure their place at the Olympics.

Mark Egan, World Rugby’s head of competitions and performance, said: “Today’s announcement is just the beginning for the Sevens Challenger Series, which will also see a women’s competition launched in 2020 and will evolve to feature more rounds across the globe as it grows and develops in future years.

“The competition will allow unions outside of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series to compete on a more regular basis with a clear pathway to the highest level. Launching next year will provide an excellent platform for nations to develop and improve their competitiveness ahead of Tokyo 2020 and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in South Africa.”