Leading sevens coaches Ben Ryan and and Mike Friday support the decision to end this year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, while looking forward to a more exciting season in 2020-21. According to a report by the South China Morning Post.
Ben Ryan, who coached an Olympic-winning team, said it gave the sport a chance to upgrade its overall product ahead of the Tokyo Games, while USA coach Mike Friday said the players’ desire to return only increases with time spent away from the game.
World Rugby on Tuesday said it would halt the 2019-20 World Series because of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the New Zealand men’s and women’s team declared champions. The men played six tournaments and the women five.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) June 30, 2020
“Unfortunately it was the only decision that could have been made,” said Ryan, who led Fiji to the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal.
“I feel for all those involved in putting the tournaments together and the hard work that won’t come to fruition this year, but also sure everyone will be back and support the series restarting when it’s safe to do so.
“It’s also going to give sevens a chance to have an update and improve the product it delivers. I’m disappointed the most for the players and management of all the teams.
“It’s hit them professionally and financially and whilst nothing can be done to have made any call other than cancel the remaining events, I hope they are all doing OK and trying to take the positives and opportunities out of the situation.”
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens was to be the culmination of the 10-leg World Series from October 16-18 after being postponed from April 3-5 – its traditional spring dates. World Rugby was hoping the Covid-19 situation would have eased by then.
However, with many countries still experiencing a surge in new cases and closed borders restricting fans from travelling, it was decided to cancel the remaining tournaments.
Events in London and Paris (both rescheduled from May to September), and Singapore (rescheduled from April 11-12 to October 10-11) and Hong Kong were the last four stops for the men, while the women were supposed to play in Langford (Canada), Paris and Hong Kong. It is the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1976 that the Hong Kong Sevens is not held.
“We are all disappointed that the decision had to be made to cancel the 2019-20 season but in these unprecedented times it was the right decision to put the health and welfare of all those that participate and watch the World Series first,” said Friday, who has worked wonders with the Eagles since taking charge, building them into one of the best teams in the world.
“Decisive action was required to allow all to start to plan for the future. For us in the USA, we can now approach the start of the 2020-21 season with a clear focus and direction working through to the Olympics next July.
“The players and staff are itching to get back into training and preparing for what will be a hugely exciting season. We have returning players from injury together with other players who are now a year more experienced, culminating in a far more competitive squad.
“This time away from the game has given all a fresh perspective on the world and reinforced the gratitude we have every time we get to represent [the country]. We have all felt first-hand what it is like to have that taken away and gives you a huge desire and drive to ensure you cherish every moment when we are fortunate enough to be given an opportunity on the World Series.”
The 2020-21 season is expected to start at the end of the year, depending on the Covid-19 situation, with the Hong Kong Sevens set to take its regular place in early April.
Ryan, one of the architects behind the new Rugby X five-a-side game, said the break in sevens will allow World Rugby to improve aspects of the game, such as number of tournaments, teams and the format for each tournament.