AS the sun beats down on Malaga’s impressive skyline that rises high above the Mediterranean sea, the world’s most talented rugby players are gearing up for the flagship tournament in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
For the first time ever, Spain is hosting the major competition, with men’s and women’s events in Malaga and Seville taking place on 21-23 and 28-30 January respectively.
The Andalucian cities are two of three new hosts, along with Toulouse in France, to temporarily replace traditional Series hosts Sydney, Australia, and Hamilton, New Zealand who were unable to host in 2022 due to the logistical challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Rugby Sevens Series, first organised in 1999, is an annual series of international rugby sevens tournaments run by World Rugby featuring national sevens teams.
South Africa’s men and Australia’s women will arrive in Spain in a confident mood at the top of the Series rankings following their comprehensive back-to-back victories in the first two rounds of the Series in Dubai in late 2021.
Meanwhile, England, Scotland and Wales men’s teams and England’s women will take to the field for the first time in the 2022 Series after reverting to play as separate home nations after having competed jointly as Great Britain during the Olympic year in 2021.
Germany and Jamaica’s male teams and Belgium and Poland women’s teams will have the chance to shine at the highest level as teams from New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa were unfortunately unable to travel to Spain due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
Fiji’s men’s and women’s teams were unable to travel to Malaga and have not been replaced, meaning opponents in their respective group matches will receive three match points for a “bye” and a score of 0-0 will be recorded for those games.
Play in the HSBC Spain Sevens – Malaga will kick-off at 09:00 local time on Friday, 21 January with a women’s Pool C encounter between Russia and Brazil before Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists France take on England.
Sportsfans from across the globe are expected to follow the 2022 Series in Spain after World Rugby’s Olympics-related social media content achieved huge impact with more than 22 million video views achieving 102 million impressions and 3.4 million public engagements from 2,400 posts across five World Rugby platforms.
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Following an outstandingly competitive and highly impactful Olympic Games competition it will be exciting to take the Series to new venues in Spain and France as the game continues to expand and captivate new audiences around the world with its fast, skilful and thrilling format. Rugby sevens is a key driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations, and it firmly remains a top priority for our organisation.
“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure we can announce a full Series schedule today and we thank HSBC, the host organisations, unions, commercial and broadcast partners for their unwavering support and spirit of collaboration as we navigate the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic together.
“We now look ahead to the return of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at full throttle ahead of what promises to be a very busy and exciting year for sevens with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town following the Series.
“As ever, the health and welfare of players, fans and wider society continues to be our primary concern and we will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure the safe delivery of the Series.”
HSBC Group Head of Brand and Brand Partnerships Jonathan Castleman said: “Like everyone involved we are incredibly excited that the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is back and this is truly a testament to all of the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes.
“With new venues in both Spain and France, it opens up further opportunities to attract even more players, fans and communities to the spectacle of rugby sevens and as the long-term partner of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series we cannot wait to watch the teams competing at the highest levels again and where possible with full stadiums.”