ARU in talks to expand Sydney 7s

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Australian Rugby Union is in talks to expand the Sydney 7s to include both men's and women's World Series events, CEO Bill Pulver says.

Australia’s women played a three-match series against Ireland as part of the Sydney 7s weekend but Pulver said the national body hoped to make Sydney a new leg of the women’s series sooner rather than later.

If successful, Australia would be one of the first major Rugby nations  to make a commitment to dual events, with Dubai the only leg featuring both men and women in this series.

Pulver said it made sense to put the world-class women on the same stage.

“Every time the women play exhibition games they’re always some of the most popular games,” he said.

“We’re in a dialogue with World Rugby right now to see if we can combine the men’s series with the women’s series and have an integrated tournament next year.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll hopefully get World Rugby support for that and that will make this weekend massive.

“It’s a wonderful venue and the women’s game will shock everybody.

“The talent, the athleticism and just the skill of our women’s team is really quite incredible.”

If the ARU does manage to get a women’s event up in 2017, Pulver said it wouldn’t simply be a short-term commitment either.

“There’s 10 (events) on the men’s side and only four or five on the  women’s side. That’s short sighted,” he said.

“In 3-4 years' time the women’s side of the game is going to be equally big and you’ll notice that.

“If we can get this tournament it’ll be in great shape and when we get it we’ll lock it up for at least four years.”

Women’s Sevens looms as a major priority for the ARU going forward, with its role in helping attract more fans and participants to the game.

Pulver said the buzz around the Aussie women, currently ranked number one in the world, would only continue to grow with the Olympics on the horizon.

“A huge fan base saw our Women’s team yesterday and today. Now they’ll watch them at the Olympics in August and this time next year they’ll (hopefully) see the entire World Series here,” he said.

Pulver said there was also the possibility of starting a women’s domestic Sevens series, to be staged in major Australian cities.

Australia’s women’s coach Tim Walsh said he would be lobbying for a women’s event in Sydney, to give his side a chance to play more often in front of a home crowd.

“I’d love to see it as a joint competition and get the girls out there more often, and changing the awareness or appreciation that these girls are world class athletes,” he said.

“It’s getting closer every year but I’m pushing for it.“It can’t be too far away. It’ll be nice to see a really top event at the Olympics and hopefully the wave really starts to parrot home and there’s equality around the World Series around men and women.”

Plenty of the two-day 73,313-strong crowd packed in to see the women’s team play as part of a weekend that Pulver said was ultimately a success.

When the decision to move the event to Sydney from the Gold Coast was first announced, it was perceived as an obvious choice but Pulver said it had smashed expectations.

“I am just stunned by what an incredibly successful weekend it was,” he said.

“We’ve had rugby fans from a brand new demographic (attending).

“A lot of young kids have come out and enjoyed a fabulous weekend of exciting rugby.

“You’re always a little nervous about what the reality’s going to bring and Sydney fans embraced it wholeheartedly.

“Credit to the precinct too -the pubs and restaurants - everyone’s embraced the idea of the tournament.

“It’s exceeded every expectation we had.”

The event was also estimated to have raised $7 million in visitor spend, with roughly 20 per cent of tickets sold to people outside of Sydney.