The sevens programmes of England, Scotland and Wales have been scrapped with Great Britain men’s and women’s teams to participate in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next season.
The Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby and Welsh Rugby Union have confirmed a joint approach for the venture.
The move has been ratified and mandated by World Rugby, aligning the governing bodies’ future direction of sevens and connection to its Olympic status.
It means that Great Britain will be a representative team in the World Series for men and women, replacing England, Scotland and Wales in the men’s competition and England in the women’s, although each union will retain individual Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup status, depending on qualification.
The respective unions and World Rugby are in discussions regarding further playing opportunities for the England, Scotland and Wales teams.
Great Britain’s men won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics and were fourth in Tokyo last year, while GB women finished fourth on both of those occasions.
Prospects for the men’s and women’s GB squads looked bleak a year before Tokyo, though, amid significant cuts made to British sevens programmes.
Although funding was then obtained ahead of the Olympics via a commercial partnership struck between the RFU, Scottish Rugby, WRU and The National Lottery promotional fund, post-Tokyo uncertainty remained.
‘This is a seminal day for sevens’
A statement released by the RFU said coaches and playing squads would be confirmed ahead of the World Series men’s opener in Hong Kong in November and women’s launch in Dubai the following month.
The statement added: “The mandating of Olympic teams from the 2023/24 season means all three unions acknowledge the importance of transferring to GB from the forthcoming campaign (2022/23) to embrace this new era with GB as the representative team on the World Series moving forward.”
RFU performance director Conor O’Shea said: “This is a seminal day for sevens. It is the right way forward, giving Team GB a real opportunity to go to the Olympic Games with the right preparation, to compete on a level playing field with other sevens programmes and most importantly, enables us all to give certainty to staff and players as to the future of the programme.
“We will be working hard now to finalise the structures to support GB so we are ready to start the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Series with a bang, moving towards Paris 2024 and beyond.”
Scottish Rugby’s high performance director Jim Mallinder added: “We are acutely aware of Scotland’s heritage and passion for sevens rugby. As such, we remain fully committed to a Scotland sevens programme to develop our players and coaches.
“The move to a GB sevens team on the World Series will give Scottish players, both men and women, a unique opportunity to represent and compete on the largest global stage through the World Series and Olympic Games.”
And WRU performance director Nigel Walker said: “We will maintain male and female sevens programmes in Wales to develop players and coaches and make sure there is a pipeline of talent culminating in the opportunity to push for GB selection, and ultimately compete at an Olympics.”