RFU pulls plug on Sevens
The England men’s and women’s Sevens squads have been told by the Rugby Football Union that their professional contracts will not be renewed when they expire at the end of the month. Players now fear this will severely harm Team GB’s chances of Sevens medal success at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
The Rugby Football Union has scrapped its professional sevens programme.
The England men’s and women’s squads were informed this week that once their contracts are up at the end of this month, they will not be offered new deals. Leading players believe this could severely damage medal chances for Team GB at the Olympics.
Players had been told last month to “explore their options” until the World Series was due to resume early next year, and that they would be out of contract for five months. However, senior players, including sevens all-time highest try-scorer Dan Norton and 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, Richard de Carpentier, have expressed their frustration at now being out of a job.
Players have also been left “devastated”, by the funding cut a year out from the Olympics. Some were upset that they received a one-line severance letter from the RFU after the initial virtual meeting where they learnt of their fate.
Olympic silver medallist Norton said: “The more I think about it, the more frustrated I get. I have been fortunate enough to give 10 years and I do know that professional sport is pretty ruthless, we gave our all but the way things have been done now, to take being so close to an Olympics and being sacked, it is pretty bittersweet to have to swallow.”
It is understood players would be contracted from a tournamentto-tournament basis, but only a small number of sevens players have attracted the attention of Premiership clubs for XVs contracts.
At the Rio Olympics, the bulk of Team GB was made up of England players and it would have been the same for Tokyo, with the men looking to be medal contenders, wanting to go one better than 2016 and having won a Commonwealth bronze in 2018, followed by an appearance in the World Cup Sevens later that year.
Norton (right) despite his commitment to sevens over 10 years, is concerned about Team GB. “With the things that have happened at the RFU, the conversations we have had, they are not willing to lend sufficient support to win a gold medal.”
Unlike most Olympic sports, does not receive UK Sport funding. An RFU spokesperson said: “We have approached UK Sport for funding and are exploring the option for a Team GB sevens team, we are also in dialogue with World Rugby about the programme for the World Sevens Series and when games are likely to be played. With no current support in funding we are not in a position to sustain the team in its current format.” De Carpentier, who is yet to become an Olympian having missed out on Rio, is desperate to make the Games but is worried for his family and wants to put his wife and son first, so much so that he is considering selling their home in London and living with family. “My major goal in rugby is to go to the Olympics, but at the same time I have to do whatever needs to be done to keep our child fed and to keep a roof over our heads.” The players had been advised to live within 30 miles of their base in Teddington, south-west London.