• Powell concerned about Olympic Games preparation

    Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says World Rugby’s decision to postpone the Singapore and Hong Kong Sevens could leave teams short of preparation for the Olympics.

    World Rugby announced its decision to reschedule the Singapore and Hong Kong tournaments from the original dates in April to 29-30 October and 5-7 November 2021, respectively, with Hong Kong acting as the World Series finale.

    A further update on contingency scheduling for the Sevens Series 2021 will be provided early in the new year, with a return to a full competition schedule anticipated for the 2022 edition.

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    Powell admits he was disappointed with the news, which he sees as a massive blow to the 2020-21 Sevens Series.

    ‘This will leave us, as well as the other teams participating in the Olympics in Tokyo, short of game time, so in that regard, this was disappointing to hear,’ said Powell.

    ‘It means that, apart from some regional tournaments, we will probably have one or maybe two official tournaments leading into the Olympics, which is not enough to get momentum for Tokyo.

    ‘We understand the reasons and applaud World Rugby for putting player welfare first, but it does make planning for next season a challenge.

    ‘We have to laud World Rugby for their efforts in this regard, though, as they have offered financial assistance to all teams who qualified for the Olympics, and their efforts with the regional tournaments are commendable.’

    World Rugby announced some warm-up tournaments for early next year, with a first of those inter-regional preparation events to take place in Madrid, Spain, over two weekends late in February.

    The high-performance event in Spain is being hosted by the Federación Española de Rugby (FER) and supported by World Rugby, and will feature up to 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams participating across two successive weekends (20-21 and 27-28 February).

    It is the first two of several high-performance focused opportunities being scheduled during the first half of 2021 to assist in the development and preparation of sevens teams in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. World Rugby will announce further details in due course.

    For Powell, playing in those tournaments will be crucial.

    ‘The tournaments in Spain will be crucial for us, as will any other regional events leading up to the Olympics and hopefully, we can play in two or three of those. Our main aim for 2021 remains the same and that is to be successful at the Olympics.’

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    Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images