New Zealand and Fiji have dominated the Rugby 7s scene since it’s inception. During this time the All Blacks and NZ Rugby have becoming increasingly dominate in the performance, development and organisation of Rugby 15s.
The breadth and depth of the other countries playing international 7s has been improving rapidly,
especially from non-traditional rugby nations, USA and Kenya for example.
Rugby 7s appearance at the Olympics has given the code another stage to perform on and gain promotion. It would have to be argued whether the Olympics will now be considered the pinnacle of 7s, or like other recents Olympic sports with well established international competition, it’s just another tournament on the circuit.
Rugby 7s is becoming more and more specialised in terms of skills, strength and conditioning needs and natural physical attributes from top players. Rugby 7s has evolved significantly, both tactically on the field and in player preparation and development. We see that in the challenge that players from 15s and other codes have had making the shift (except SBW, naturally!).
A lot has been written about the performance of the men’s 7s team in Rio. The main culprits raised are either the coach (his training methods and respect from the team) or NZ Rugby’s policy regarding selection/availability of NZR contracted players.
There will of course be a significant review in NZR following Rio (there would have been regardless of the outcome), but should NZR consider divesting themselves of 7s?
Would a separate organisation enable 7s to compete more effectively for participants at all levels? Would they be able to sell themselves as a different code than ‘rugby’, with fewer collisions and therefore safer, definitely valuing different physical attributes?
Could a 7s organisation align closely with touch? Touch New Zealand is a separate organisation from NZR. Touch and has a very strong social / casual following, with significant play-for-pay participation – good money for organisations involved.
Academy programmes are forcing players to make code selections earlier and earlier, and with NZRs emphasis on 15s the best players are naturally funneled into 15s to detriment of 7s. As a unique organisation could 7s create a more attractive pathway than the NZR can offer today?
Will there continue to be less-and-less player cross-over, or with the tempo of 15s increasing might we see the two codes converge again, in which case is NZ better placed to manage this convergence under a single organisation?
The international 7s scene is quite different than 15s, both the competition structures, competing countries and therefore the broadcast and sponsorship makeup. Would a separate organisation be able to manage this environment better than the professional machine of NZR?
NZR is a very professional machine able to promote the growth of community sport, develop the professional sport and attract great money. Given this muscle, does it make sense to consider diverging the two codes and allowing 7s to promote itself uniquely, or would 7s struggle without the might of NZR?