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Vancouver makes cut in slimmed-down World Rugby sevens competition

Rebranded as HSBC SVNS and playing a reduced schedule, event returns to BC Place in February
Argentina’s Matias Osadczuk, left, brings the trophy to his teammates as they celebrate after defeating France during gold medal HSBC Canada Sevens rugby action, in Vancouver on March 4, 2023. Vancouver has made the cut in the rebranded and slimmed-down World Rugby Sevens Series. The new format features eight events, each offering men’s and women’s play, under the HSBC SVNS name. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver has made the cut in the slimmed-down HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, rebranded as HSBC SVNS.

The revamped competition features eight events, each offering men’s and women’s play.

Last season’s Seven Series consisted of 11 men’s and seven women’s events. All the women’s competition took place in tandem with stops on the men’s circuit.

The new-look schedule kicks off Dec. 2-3 in Dubai followed by stops in Cape Town, South Africa (Dec. 9-10), Perth, Australia (Jan. 26-28), Vancouver (Feb. 23-25), Los Angeles (March 2-3), Hong Kong (April 5-7), Singapore (May 3-5) and Madrid (May 31-June 2).

That means no events in London, Sydney (Australia), Hamilton (New Zealand) and Toulouse (France) all of which hosted stops last season. Hong Kong staged two events.

It’s good news for Rugby Canada. The Canada Sevens is a money-maker for the cash-strapped governing body, as shown by 2018 when it drew a combined 77,000 fans over two days at B.C. Place Stadium.

The 2023 Canada Sevens marked the eighth time that the Sevens Series has come to Vancouver, but the first that full men’s and women’s play was staged concurrently at the event.

Previously the Canadian women’s event was held in Langford, B.C. A trimmed-down competition with both men and women was held in Vancouver during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season.

The changes are the latest from World Rugby, which moved in recent years to combine more men’s and women’s events and even the number of teams for both.

“For the first time in rugby sevens history, all locations will be unified under the same approach, meaning that the overall experience is the same and we can optimize commercial revenue for reinvestment, including playing our part in ensuring that sevens is a viable career path for the talented players and Olympians,” World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said in a statement

The top eight teams at the conclusion of the Singapore event will compete in a new “winner takes all” grand final in Madrid, where the women’s and men’s champions will be crowned.

Madrid will also host a relegation playoff competition where teams ranked ninth to 12th will join the top four teams from the second-tier Challenger Series. The top four sides coming out of the playoff will secure their status on the next SVNS season.

The Canadian men survived a relegation battle in May, with World Rugby trimming the number of core teams for next season to 12 from 16 to match both the women’s competition and Olympic field.

Japan, the 15th-place team in the standings, was relegated after the penultimate tournament in Toulouse. That left No. 12 Uruguay, No 13 Kenya, No. 14 Canada and Tonga, winner of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, in the round-robin relegation playoff in London.

Canada dramatically defeated Kenya 12-7 in the playoff final, preserving its status as a core team.

The Canadian men made their World Series debut in 1999-2000 and have been a core team on the circuit since 2012-13. London marked their 190th tournament on the circuit.

Dropping out of the sport’s top tier would have been a body blow at a time when Rugby Canada has facilitated players moving between the sevens and 15s game to increase its depth and provide more playing opportunities. Not to mention vastly increasing the degree of difficulty in qualifying for the Olympics.

The Canadian women, bronze medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympics, finished ninth in the overall standings last season.

Both Canadian teams will take part in the Rugby Americas North Sevens Olympic qualifier next month in Langford, B.C.

READ ALSO: Canadian rugby men finish a season-best fourth at HSBC France Sevens