After the World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 season came to a halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, World Rugby announced yesterday (30 June) that the remaining rounds this year in Langford, London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong have been cancelled.
Originally, the remaining rounds were scheduled to take place between September and October after they were postponed from their April to May window.
Before the Series was interrupted, five of the eight women's rounds and six of the 10 men's rounds had been successfully completed with New Zealand leading both the men's and women's tournaments.
With the decision on Tuesday, which followed "detailed and constructive dialogue with the host and participating union" written in a media release from World Rugby, it saw the Black Ferns Sevens and All Black Sevens awarded the 2019-20 Series titles.
“While this probably isn’t the way the teams would have liked to claim the Series titles, it is a reflection of the impressive form they were in and their consistent performances throughout the season," New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson told allblacks.com.
“It is a real credit to all players and the wider management for the work they were doing in the build up to the Tokyo Olympics, and I’m sure they will pick up where they left off when they reassemble later in the year."
New Zealand had finished top of the podium in the past four rounds in the women's competition and had a 16 point lead on reigning Olympic champions Australia in second with Canada finishing third.
Meanwhile, in the men's competition, the Kiwi's had claimed three victories and five podium finishes which saw them ahead of the Republic of South Africa in second. Rio 2016 gold medallist and last seasons Champions Fiji were in third.
While World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont understands that everyone involved from players to fans will be disappointed in the decision, the "health and wellbeing of the rugby community and wider society" was the number one priority.
"As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, 2021 has potential to be a very exciting year for rugby sevens with the Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon," he also added.
"We are united in our commitment and will continue to work hard in a spirit of collaboration as we plan for a return to international rugby sevens as soon as safely possible.”
Revised qualification and Tokyo 2020 seedings
The World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series men’s and women’s final events were also cancelled.
The Challenger Series, which was launched this year to boost rugby sevens’ development particularly in emerging nations, saw Japan awarded the inaugural men’s title and sees them join the World Rugby Sevens Series as the 16th core team next season.
There will be no promotion to the women’s Series this year as the inaugural Challenger Series event originally scheduled in March will not take place.
With the cancellation of the remainder of the season, the seedings for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be adapted to include results from next season to provide the most accurate representation of current form when the Games commence in July 2021.
While the World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 season is set to begin on December in Dubai, World Rugby confirmed further information will follow about the upcoming season in due course.