The pools were drawn today for the inaugural HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series event for women, which will take place at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, South Africa on 28-29 March.
Women’s rugby stars Danielle Waterman, a Rugby World Cup winner with England, and Ghislaine Landry, Canada rugby sevens captain and Olympic medallist conducted the draw at BC Place in Vancouver ahead of the HSBC Canada Sevens.
The standalone event will see 12 teams who have qualified from all six World Rugby regions competing to win a coveted core place on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the 2021 season.
The competing teams were drawn into three pools of four teams each. The draw sees Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualified China in Pool A together with hosts South Africa, Poland and Mexico.
Japan, who have made three guest appearances on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series already this campaign as part of their Olympic preparation take on Papua New Guinea, Kazakhstan and Belgium.
In Pool C Scotland will face Kenya, who will also compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, alongside South American rivals Argentina and Colombia.
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The Sevens Challenger Series is a new competition designed to boost rugby sevens’ development across the globe. The inaugural event in Stellenbosch is just the beginning for women’s participation on the Sevens Challenger Series, which will evolve to feature more rounds across the globe as it grows and develops in future years.
Commenting on the opportunity for participating teams, Ghislaine Landry said: “The opportunity to play as a team, against other countries in a top competition is massive, it is one of the best ways to get better, to keep improving, and to be ready when they do make it on to the World Series. We have seen the performance level improve year after year and for these teams it’s such an important part of developing.
Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Landry reflected on the huge growth in women’s rugby sevens over the course of her career: “I’ve been involved in the women’s Series since its inception and it’s grown massively, the pace and skill is incredible right now, year after year it’s just keeps getting better and the more that we’re given the opportunity to play the better we will get and for these teams in the Challenger Series this is a really great opportunity to get ready to play at the top level.”
World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series participants Japan, China and Kenya have already qualified for Tokyo 2020, while Argentina, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Papua New Guinea will all take part in the Olympic repechage in June 2020 to try and secure their place at the 2020 Olympic Games.
With sevens experiencing dynamic growth in terms of both participation and fan engagement, World Rugby is aiming to develop the next generation of players and take rugby sevens to new nations, further growing the popularity and performance of sevens as we approach the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and beyond.
Rugby sevens’ hugely impactful debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games attracted an estimated 30 million new fans from around the world to the speed, skill and athleticism of rugby sevens, and with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, the Sevens Challenger Series will help to prepare teams for the possibility of playing on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
At today’s draw Danielle Waterman said: “It’s awesome that we’re kicking off the Challenger Series in Olympic year and it’s a huge opportunity for these countries to go and compete. It’s a great chance to celebrate where the women’s game is going, we’ve already seen the number of women’s events on the World Series increase this year and for these teams the Challenger Series will be great preparation for potentially stepping up to the World Series, and also for the Olympic Games.”
Upon the announcement of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The launch of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series for both women and men is an important milestone moment for the development of rugby sevens around the globe.
“Sevens has seen dynamic growth in interest and fan engagement since making it’s hugely successful Olympic debut at Rio 2016, and it is right to launch the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in a pivotal year for rugby sevens ahead of the spotlight shone by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“The new Sevens Challenger Series will help to develop the next generation of players and bring international sevens events to new nations, further growing its popularity around the world and underscoring our commitment to be a sport for all.
“World Rugby is heavily committed to growing the women’s game – the women’s competition on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has expanded from six to eight rounds this season and teams are more competitive than ever, demonstrating the need and appetite for more women’s teams to be playing sevens at a high level with a clear pathway to progress to the very top of rugby sevens.”