The HSBC Sevens World Series will this weekend make its way to its last round of the season, at the home of English rugby; Twickenham.
11-time - and currently reigning - champions New Zealand look certain to claim the crown once again, needing just four points in the final tournament to secure the title. Points are allocated to teams, depending on how well they fare in the different competitions around the world, with four trophies awarded each round.
The Shield, Bowl, Plate and Cup are handed out, with more points achieved depending which trophy you end up chasing. The maximum amount of points that can be won in each round is 22, which is for lifting the cup, an achievement New Zealand have done on four occasions this season, including in the weekend’s competition in Glasgow.
As for this week’s hosts, England, they sit in fourth, behind the All Blacks Sevens, South Africa and Fiji, and look to be staying there, barring a catastrophe. However, unlike in previous years, the team at the bottom of the table will be relegated without a second chance.
Before this season, the bottom three teams, after eight rounds, faced the winner of a qualifying tournament between 12 countries from the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) six regions. In the last round - the London Sevens - the four teams would compete, with the two finalists and third placed winner securing their places in the IRB World Series for the following season.
But, this year Spain look most likely to be relegated, needing more than 10 points to overtake rivals Portugal to stay up, with Japan being promoted.
Spain have failed to achieve this feat so far this year, collecting their most points from a single event in Glasgow, when they gained five for being runner-up in the Bowl final. While the season-ending London Sevens tournament is not to be overlooked, all these teams will have one eye on other competitions.
The Scotland tournament in Glasgow was seen as a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in July and August. Rugby Sevens has featured in every Commonwealth Games since being introduced in the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
However, there is expected to be added pressure and media hype at this year’s competition, in which New Zealand have never lost.
This is because in two years, rugby sevens will make possibly its greatest leap in its history by being the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in Brazil, this came after being awarded Olympic status, alongside golf, in 2009.
With this becoming the biggest tournament in the rugby sevens, it left many wondering what would happen to the World Cup. Yet, with the Olympic Games only set to accommodate 12 teams, the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens will continue with its 24 male teams and 16 female nations.
It will also take place two years after the Olympics each cycle, beginning in 2018, with a host nation to be decided in May 2015.
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