The Aon Uni Sevens Series will add three new teams over the next two seasons, with Melbourne and Sydney Universities and the University of Western Australia joining the ranks.
Melbourne and Sydney will join the series this season, while UWA will become the 11th team in 2019, the third season of the competition.
The Uni 7s has proven a breeding ground for the Aussie women’s Sevens side, with players like Yasmin Meakes (University of Canberra) and Lauren Brown (UQ) graduating to the World Series off the back of impressive season.
Sydney Uni’s inclusion gives it the full complement of high-level competitions, with teams in the women’s XVs Jack Scott Cup, the Shute Shield and now the Uni 7s.
The well-known rugby nursery will join Macquarie Uni as the second Sydney team in the competition, and third NSW team, overall.
Coach Stephen Bennie said its existing infrastructure would help give a professional environment straight away.
“Sydney Uni are a big rugby club when you think about rugby, Sydney Uni's right up there, university rugby and I think we're going to offer our players a really professional program and a clear pathway to some Olympic dreams out there, for not only our students but some extra talent around Sydney,” he said.
Bennie said the introduction of the Sevens side would open the sport to even more players at the university.
“Sevens is a huge part of the sport, growth in women's rugby, so I think that it's great that these competitions are starting to pop up and I think that it's a great opportunity for a wide range of players to get involved in the sport and I think it's all positive, all up from here.”
The success of the competition was keenly observed by Melbourne Uni’s general manager of rugby, Jason Jones.
“We looked at it very closely,” he said.
“It's very professionally run, a great pathway for players to come through.
“It's really exciting for elite athletes at our university now who have a pathway to change sports and give it a crack and come across, which is I think very exciting for us.”
Melbourne will be the only Victorian team in the competition, joining existing teams from Queensland, NSW, Tasmania, ACT and South Australia.
Rugby Australia general manager - high performance, Ben Whitaker, said the additional teams would only strengthen the competition.
“After such a successful inaugural year of the Aon Uni Sevens Series we saw an immediate opportunity to expand the competition and have two very strong new additions in the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne for 2018,” he said.
“The outcome is that we will have a stronger competition with more opportunities for players to compete across the ten teams, which has benefits for the competition as well as for our national women’s Sevens program.”
It’s not yet clear how Australia’s professionals will be distributed among the expanded competition, or if some will switch universities in the second year of the series.