The men’s and women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series will feature gold, silver and bronze medals for the first time from the 2016-17 season.
In a move that will align the annual series with the Olympic Games, World Rugby has also announced an exciting restructuring of the final competition day, driving greater meaning for teams and fans.
The traditional Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield winners format will be replaced by two competitions. The top two teams in each pool will progress to the Cup competition and the chance to win a gold medal, while lower ranked teams will contest a new Challenge Trophy competition.
The restructure means that each series event will climax with the 13th-place positional play-off, followed by the Challenge Trophy (ninth place), the fifth place play-off, bronze medal match and the gold medal match (Cup winners).
The structure is similar to that operated at the Monaco and Dublin Olympic Games repechage events in June. The number of matches the teams play across each event remains the same, as does the points distribution.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Rugby sevens continues to go from strength to strength after a hugely successful Olympic Games debut and we are very much looking forward to what promises to be a very exciting and competitive men’s and women’s series.
“This is the first season within the Tokyo 2020 cycle and therefore the timing of these adjustments makes sense. They are designed to enhance fan understanding of the schedule and format, while providing teams with the opportunity to win a medal, as is fitting with an Olympic sport.”
With series anticipation and interest on a high after what was widely regarded as a hugely successful Olympic Games debut, the men’s and women’s series kick off in Dubai on 1 December, before the men’s series moves on to Cape Town, South Africa.
The men’s and women’s Olympic Games events were the most socially engaged sevens events ever, with a total of 550 million social impressions for #Rugby7s over the six days, along with 30 million people reached through World Rugby Facebook alone.
In winning gold, Fiji’s men won their nation’s first-ever Olympic Games medal, sparking nationwide celebrations across the Pacific Island nation. Fiji was also the most Googled term worldwide on 11 August following the gold-medal success as new audiences looked to discover more.
Japan, which ranked fourth at Rio 2016, can now look forward to a home Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020 as one of the world’s top-ranked teams, continuing the nation’s remarkable rugby story following their giant-killing feats at Rugby World Cup 2015.