It was announced that the New Zealand and Australian legs of the 2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, scheduled in January next year for Hamilton and Sydney, will not be played due to the continued global uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in a significant boost to unions and players, World Rugby has announced a dedicated initial investment of US$2.5 million to support Olympic qualified national unions prepare for sevens’ biggest single global event, the Olympic Games, now scheduled for July 2021.

Each union that has qualified a team for the Tokyo 2020 Games will be able to apply to World Rugby for funding which can be directed towards rugby sevens squad training camps, competition support, technical and sports science and medical programmes.

The news of the funding boost comes as collaborative contingency planning for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 and further supplementary competition opportunities continues to progress.

World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “We continue to closely monitor the ongoing and dynamic global situation with COVID-19 and the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public remains sacrosanct.

“While it is disappointing not be able to go ahead with the events in New Zealand and Australia in January 2021, we are working very hard together with all host organisations, participating unions and other stakeholders to bring a safe, secure and highly impactful return to action as soon as possible and we look forward to returning to Sydney and Hamilton in future,” Gosper added.

NZR General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said it was disappointing for the teams, fans, and event partners, but a sensible decision under current circumstances.

“We’ve had three great years in Hamilton and were planning to take the tournament back to FMG Stadium Waikato again next January, but we understand and support the decision to cancel,” said Lendrum.

Rugby Australia Interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said: “It is incredibly disappointing that the Sydney Sevens won’t be taking place in 2021. It has fast become one of the most exciting events on the global Rugby calendar and I want to thank World Rugby as well as our Government partner, Destination NSW, for their support and understanding.”

Contingency planning for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 continues to progress with ongoing reviews into the delivery of the remaining 2021 men’s and women’s events and preparations towards a safe, secure and impactful return to action in line with World Rugby’s COVID-19 return to play protocols.