Last Updated: 30/06/20 1:30pm
Scott Hastings and Rob Vickeman join Rupert Cox to discuss the pros and cons of England, Scotland and Wales playing in the World Sevens Series under the Team GB banner.
The World Sevens Series faces a tough time as the remainder of this season has been cancelled with New Zealand being crowned champions of both the men’s and women’s competition.
The rounds in Hong Kong, Singapore, Langford (Canada), London and Paris were previously postponed, but World Rugby canceled them after discussions with the host unions.
The seedings for the Tokyo Olympics, still set to start in July next year, will be adapted to include 2021 series results, but there will have to be plenty of discussions as to whether the 2021 series can take place.
The Olympic games has become the pinnacle of the Sevens game after it was introduced in Rio 2016 with Fiji claiming their first ever Olympic medal by winning gold. Surprisingly it was Team GB who took silver with a team who had only came together four months before with a squad assembled from England, Scotland and Wales.
There has been calls for them to combine on a more permanent basis, with RFU chief Bill Sweeney the latest to suggest it may be the best way forward.
Former England Sevens skipper Rob Vickerman agrees: “These are always difficult conversations – these are national teams so you are always going get a lot of people speaking with a passion that they have for representing their country. I get that.
“For me GB is the only way forward because commercially each of these individual nations competing does not make sense. In 2015, Scotland were one letter away from having their whole programme ripped up and leaving the series to play in Europe as a part-time team.
“Wales have already been in discussions as to how revise this programme because, quite simply it was not working.
“Knowing what I know about the England set-up, it is the same set-up and there are current conversations going on about how this programme can stay.
“It wouldn’t necessarily be a central to the hockey or the cricket system whereby there is a 95 per cent English player base – which I know is a concern for many.
“If UK sport get hold of this, bearing in mind they get a £125m government and lottery funding to run this programmes, well, this makes me very pro for GB Sevens.”
Former Scotland international Scott Hastings disagrees and used the example of the Barbarians and the British and Irish Lions as to why individual nations and Team GB [in Olympic years] can work.
“I’m dead against it – and I’ll tell you why. I come from an amateur background and also played in the professional era,” explained Hastings
“I think there is some good young talent out there, players who don’t need a full professional contract to represent their country.
“I appreciate the funding for the commercial model and it is a professional sport – if you were to put amateurs playing against the professionals like the All Blacks Sevens team, they would not stand a chance.
“University have been a core source of players for Simon Amor and his England Sevens team – mix that with three or four professionals and it would work. It does not cost a huge amount to run a Sevens programme and I would like to see opportunities for young players to come through the game.
“If that funding can be cascaded down in a Olympic year to a GB team then that is fine enough – we saw the team win a silver medal four years ago almost from scratch.
“That is the beauty of Sevens – It’s a bit like the Barbarian ethos, they can come together and still match other teams. The Lions come together once every four years and they play for five weeks, so the Sevens model can remain the same.
“I think it is a good argument but I think we agree to disagree Rob.”