England, Scotland and Wales will unite to field a combined GB Sevens team for the 2021 season ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo. Says BBC news
The Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby Union and Welsh Rugby Union have secured funding from a commercial partnership with the National Lottery.
The men’s and women’s GB Sevens teams will compete in the HSBC World Sevens Series in the build-up to and after next summer’s Olympics in Japan.
Charlie Hayter will be the team leader.
Hayter will also fulfil assistant coach roles across both men’s and women’s programmes.
Scott Forrest will be head coach for the women’s side, having been in lead roles with Scotland Women’s 7s since 2012, while Tony Roques will join as head coach for the men.
James Rodwell, the most capped rugby sevens player of all time and part of the England coaching team since 2018, will complete the set-up, assisting both the men’s and women’s programmes.
Scotland, England and Wales men’s squads traditionally compete on the world stage as separate nations but will come together for next year.
The announcement is for 2021 and comes after England’s men and women’s sides had qualified on behalf of Team GB for the now delayed Tokyo Olympics.
There will be further details on the performance-based programme and players selected. An initial 24-strong women’s squad had been selected in February 2020 before the games were postponed.
“This is a great opportunity for GB Sevens and vital preparation ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games,” said RFU performance director Conor O’Shea.
“We’re very grateful to the individual unions and their partners for their cooperation, understanding and continued support.
“We know the current uncertain circumstances mean there will likely be challenges along the way but we’re looking forward to developing our plans further.”
The SRU say the men’s side will reconvene at the end of the 2021 campaign, when preparations will begin for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“The opportunity for our players to be able to put their hands up for potential Olympic selection is something we very much welcome as part of a GB Sevens squad,” said SRU director of rugby Jim Mallinder.
“It is our intention that beyond this season both of our Scotland Sevens programmes remain unaffected by this development and very much look forward to qualifying for, and sending our strongest squads to, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.”
Wales’ men won the World Cup Sevens tournament in 2009 but a steady decline saw them finish 15th in this season’s World Series after the cancellation of the remaining rounds.
The Wales Sevens men’s team was suspended in august for the “foreseeable future” because of Covid-19’s impact.
The WRU hope to be able to field men’s and women’s sides at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022 and are reviewing what the sevens programme looks like after the 2021 season.
“This is a great example of the home unions coming together for the betterment of the game,” said WRU operations director Julie Paterson.
“A lot of hard work has been put in to make this possible, and the level of collaboration from the three Unions and our commercial partners has been excellent.
“The initiative will no doubt provide Team GB with the best chance of success in Tokyo and on the World Series.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been involved in the process.
“I am delighted to see the National Lottery come forward with such an innovative partnership which will not only support Rugby Sevens as a sport, but also give back to society,” said Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.