IRB under pressure to save World Cup Sevens
The 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow may not be the last edition, with the International Rugby Board considering the prospect of carrying on with the quadrennial tournament, according to top official Mike Miller.
IRB chief executive Miller, who was in town for last weekend's Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens, revealed there was a groundswell of opinion among its member unions to keep the World Cup even though sevens has now been accepted into the Olympic Games.
'I think people are disappointed that there are only 12 spots available for rugby at the Olympics and there is a view that we should keep the World Cup. They say other sports do it, so why shouldn't rugby,' Miller said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.
The International Olympic Committee voted in 2009 in Copenhagen for sevens to become a medal sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro -
The IRB had said that if sevens became an Olympic sport it would discontinue the World Cup.
The tournament was first held in 1993 in Murrayfield, Scotland, and has been held every four years since.
Hong Kong staged the event in 1997 and 2005 with Fiji winning on both occasions. Sticking to its promise, the IRB had said the 2013 World Cup in Moscow - featuring 24 men's teams and 16 women's teams - would be the last one. But this could now change if the IRB's general assembly in October decides the tournament should not be sacrificed.
'Yes, we said Russia would be the last World Cup, but at the moment I can't speculate if this [carrying on with the World Cup] will happen. It could happen or it could not happen.
'The only reason why we are looking at it is because this is one of the issues 40-odd members have brought up,' Miller said.
With the IRB bringing out a strategic plan for the game in October, the 117 member unions have been asked for their feedback on a number of issues ranging from sevens in the Olympics to the IRB's Sevens World Series and regional development pathways.
The 40 or so members who have responded so far have raised the issue of the World Cup, with a growing number clamouring to keep the tournament even though the Olympics has included sevens.
The IRB had previously stated that the Olympics would effectively be the World Cup for sevens.
'But with 12 teams in the Olympics, people are now asking if is it right that others shouldn't get the chance of playing on the world stage,' Miller said. 'We have asked for the unions to look at all the issues and come back with their thoughts. You can't say we are rethinking of having a World Cup or not.
'Yes, we did say that if we got Olympic status, the 2013 event would be the last one. But like any family there are people who have different views. You need to listen to those different views, analyse and take action accordingly. We haven't had the debate yet. All we've got is a collection of people's views and we are discussing it,' Miller added.
Hong Kong said it would be keen for the World Cup to continue taking place. 'If there is clearly a groundswell we would support it,' said Trevor Gregory, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman.
'While we will go all out to try and qualify for the Olympics, we would have a better chance of playing in a 24-team tournament so it makes sense for Hong Kong to support the World Cup carrying on,' Gregory added.
In October, the IRB will also disclose how countries can qualify for the Olympics. It is expected that the qualification process will be on a regional basis so that teams from all continents are represented in Rio.