The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, grounded last year by the pandemic, will return in May with a pair of women's events.
But the men won't see action on the circuit until September. And there is no Canadian stop, as yet.
World Rugby says discussions continue with Vancouver and London on possibly hosting men’s events in the window between the Tokyo Olympics and HSBC Singapore Sevens in late October.
Tim Powers, chair of Rugby Canada, says the hope is the Canada Sevens will take place in September at B.C. Place Stadium. In addition to current COVID-19 restrictions, there is also a non-sports-related date conflict with the venue that has to be resolved. A secondary issue is a possible men's World Cup qualifier that could happen around the same time.
The Sevens Series schedule does not feature Langford, B.C., Canada's traditional stop on the women's circuit.
Powers said the hope is the women's stop will return to Vancouver Island in the spring of 2022. He cited difficulties in setting up the infrastructure needed to stage a tournament during a pandemic as the problem there.
"It's a COVID management challenge in Langford for 2021," he said in an interview.
The 2020 Sevens Series was halted after the men's event in Vancouver on March 7-8. The 2020 Langford women's event, scheduled for May 2-3, never happened.
The condensed 2021 schedule includes five women’s and four men's rounds, pending decisions on Vancouver and London.
New Zealand was crowned champions of both the women's and men's series in 2020, which ended early following five of the eight scheduled women’s rounds and six of the 10 men’s rounds.
The Canadian women stood third and the men eighth when the 2020 season was called.
The 2021 schedule kicks off with back-to-back women’s events in Paris on May 15-16 and 22-23. The Sevens Series will then break for the Olympics and restart with a men’s event in Singapore (Oct. 29-30), followed by joint men’s and women’s rounds in Hong Kong (Nov. 5-7), Dubai (Dec. 3-4) and Cape Town (Dec. 10-12).
The Olympic sevens competition is scheduled for July 26-31 at Tokyo Stadium.
Canada's men and women have both qualified for Tokyo. The Canadian women won bronze at the 2016 Rio Games, which the Canadian men missed out on.
World Rugby says, with help from the International Olympic Committee, it is investing US$4 million to help qualified teams prepare for the Olympics. Pre-Olympic competition includes a joint women’s and men’s event in Los Angeles June 25-27.
Further events will be announced at a later date.
Japan will join as a core team in 2021 following its promotion from the inaugural HSBC World Rugby Challenger Series in 2020.
Given it is an Olympic year, the England, Scotland and Wales teams will combine to compete as "GB Sevens" in both the men’s and women’s competitions. That will create two additional berths, with invitational teams to be announced at a later date.
World Rugby concedes the pandemic may result in more openings.
"Given the unique and unprecedented nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its various international travel restrictions and quarantine measures, it is accepted that some teams may not be able to travel or participate in all 2021 Series events," the governing body said in a statement.
"Where possible, World Rugby will invite replacement teams to fill the places of any core Series team unable to participate in a series event."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021