The International Rugby Board and Rugby Football Union have today announced that the London Sevens will play host to an IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup event in May.
The showcase women’s event, featuring 12 invitational international teams, will follow in the footsteps of a successful tournament in Dubai last December and one scheduled for Hong Kong next month.
The IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup will be played alongside the final round of the HSBC Sevens World Series at Twickenham on May 12-13 in front of what tournament organisers are hoping will be a record crowd for a Sevens event at the iconic venue.
The 12 teams invited by the IRB are: Sevens world champions Australia, hosts England, Dubai winners Canada, USA, the Netherlands, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 hosts Russia, Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, France, South Africa and Portugal.
Women’s Rugby is one of the fastest growing forms of the sport and with the Rugby family counting down to Sevens’ debut in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the event will provide high-level competition for the teams and a strong platform to demonstrate the considerable performance advances in elite Women’s Rugby to a worldwide television audience.
The announcement comes after IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset’s role as a keynote speaker at the 5th IOC World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles earlier this month where he outlined the IRB’s commitment to the growth and development of the Women’s Game.
“These are exciting times for Women's Rugby around the world. Participation is growing while we continue to work with our Member Unions to ensure elite Women’s competition goes from strength to strength ahead of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 and our Sevens debut in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” said Lapasset.
“These invitational IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup events are the first step on the road to delivering an annual IRB Women’s Sevens World Series along similar lines to the hugely successful men’s HSBC Sevens World Series. I am sure that London will be a resounding success and give fans in the stadium and around the world another opportunity to see just how competitive Women’s Rugby is.”
Rob Andrew, RFU Professional Rugby Director, said: “The RFU is delighted to be hosting the IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup as part of the London Sevens this year. Dubai held the first ever IRB Women’s Sevens event in December 2011 so for Twickenham Stadium to be added to that calendar is a prestigious honour.”
“With Rugby Sevens making its debut in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games it is important we, and other Member Unions, strive forward to develop the international programme for our women’s teams and this announcement represents a significant step on the road to Rio for these international teams.”
The event and the move towards an annual IRB Women's Sevens Series represents a key delivery of the recently launched IRB Women’s Rugby Plan which commits to staging a world-class Women’s Sevens event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
It is intended to establish the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in time for the start of the 2012/13 season. Selection to participate in the Series will be linked to performances in IRB funded Regional Women’s Sevens tournaments and other international Women’s Sevens events.
IRB Women's Development Manager Susan Carty, said: “The introduction of official IRB Women’s Sevens events is another significant step for the Women’s Game as we look to grow the sport and deliver the objectives of increased global competition and improved High Performance structures as set out in the recently published IRB Women’s Rugby Plan.”