Aussie Sevens teams stood down amid growing pandemic

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by Beth Newman

Australia's Sevens teams have been stood down and will take four weeks' annual leave beginning on Tuesday after another tumultuous day amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Olympic Committee released a statement earlier on Monday advising all Australian athletes to prepare for a 2021 Olympic Games.

As part of that, CEO Matt Carroll ruled out Australia's participation in the Olympics if the Games were to proceed as scheduled, more concerned with athletes remaining healthy and with their families.

The news means Australia's Sevens teams will shift their planning towards the 2020-21 World Series and a 2021 Olympic season.

World Rugby had already moved to postpone the remainder of the World Series season this year and the Olympic news means that Australia's Sevens players were facing months of training with no rugby.

Rugby Australia announced on Monday evening then that the Sevens teams would begin their annual leave period, which normally begins in July or August, immediately.

Tokyo Stadium was set to be the venue for the Olympics Sevens. Photo: Getty ImagesPlayers will be stood down on annual leave for the next four weeks, ending any hopes of normalcy resuming in the Sevens sphere.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said in a statement that the organisation supported the AOC stance.

“Whilst this is disappointing for both of our Australian Sevens teams, Rugby Australia supports the announcement by the Australian Olympic Committee to provide clarity for athletes preparing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo," she said.

“We have been in discussion with all players and staff from both programs and with the remainder of the current HSBC Sevens World Series season suspended until later in the year, we will move our players' annual leave forward to commence from tomorrow.

“As you would expect there are a number of disappointed athletes and staff across both programs, but this decision is in the best interests of the individual athletes and the wider community’s health.

"Rugby Australia will work with both teams to ensure they can be in the best possible position to live their Olympic dream in 2021."