This weekend the first of two legs of the brand-new World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series gets underway with the opening tournament in Viña del Mar (Chile).
World Rugby has unveiled the new competition to encourage the further development of the sport’s sevens format. The aim of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series involves the development of the next generation of rugby players and taking sevens to new nations in the wake of its successful Olympic debut at the Rio 2016 Games.
The men’s series will feature 13 core national teams from the six World Rugby regions who will compete over two rounds alongside three invitational teams.
The top eight core teams after the two rounds will then compete in the final playoff tournament for a spot in the World Rugby Sevens Series, replacing the bottom-placed core team in the World Series in the following season. World Rugby said this promotion and relegation system will provide a clear and consistent development pathway for teams.
Thirteen nations have earned their place in the Challenger Series by finishing as the top-ranked nations who are not already competing in the World Rugby Sevens Series at their respective regional sevens competitions in 2019.
The teams who will compete in the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series are Brazil, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Tonga, Uganda, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. They will be joined by three invitational teams from the Americas in Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay.
The final playoff tournament was initially planned to be hosted alongside the World Rugby Sevens Series event in Hong Kong, however due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the Hong Kong Sevens have now been postponed and it’s yet to be confirmed which affect this has on the challenger series.
When and Where?
The two legs of the inaugural World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series will be played in Viña del Mar, Chile on February 15-16; and Montevideo, Uruguay on February 22-23.
The first tournament in Chile will be held at the Estadio Sausalito (capacity 22,360) and kicks off at 11:03 local time (GMT-4) on Saturday 15 February with Uganda facing Italy. Day 2 gets underway at 12:33 (GMT-4) on Sunday with the 9th place quarter-final. The final is scheduled for 21:23 (GMT-4) (GMT-4) on Sunday evening.
Where Can I See It?
World Rugby Sevens streams the tournament live on their website
Who’s the favourite?
The World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series involves a number of teams with a thorough World Sevens Series track record. Especially top-seed Japan can offer a wealth of 7s experience and travels as one of the favorites to South America. Hosts Chile also made great progress in the past years and could benefit from the home advantage.
In terms of European teams, the current European Champions Germany eventually want to make a significant step towards becoming a core team on the World Sevens circuit after plenty of hard work.
One to Watch
The Tongan-born Japanese player has been one of the stars for the Cherry Blossoms in recent years. Lisala currently plays for the NSW Waratahs in Australia.
POOL A: JAPAN, TONGA, PORTUGAL, URUGUAY
POOL B: HONG KONG, JAMAICA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, COLOMBIA
POOL C: GERMANY, UGANDA, ITALY, PARAGUAY
POOL D: CHILE, ZIMBABWE, BRAZIL, MEXICO