The four pool winners in New Zealand and Australia will qualify automatically for the semi-finals.
South African media reports claim coaches and players are considering taking their grievances to the International Court of Sport Arbitration (CAS) to try and get the move overturned.
Critics of the changes claim the insistence on running the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series men’s and women’s events together has meant that unless tournaments can run for three days – as happened in Cape Town – there isn’t the time to fit in the last eight round. That is why for the next legs in Hamilton (Jan 25-26) and Sydney (Feb 1-2) – being staged over two days – the pool winners in the men’s events head straight to the final four. World Rugby believe the new format will deliver a less confusing final day for fans.
The Hamilton draw has put holders Fiji in the same pool as Australia and Argentina with just one team qualifying for the semi-finals with New Zealand in a pool with USA and South Africa paired with England. New Zealand and South Africa currently lead the men’s table on 41 points each, with defending champions Fiji in sixth place.
A World Rugby spokesman told RugbyPass: “The situation remains that quarter-finals will not take place in Hamilton and Sydney. This was discussed last year and we are trying to deliver more men’s and women’s events to create greater synergy. We want to create more opportunities for the women’s game as well and it is a fine balance.”
Sevens experts have made it clear the quarter-finals are central to the excitement generated by the Series and the decision to truncate the next two legs will be counter-productive and reduce television exposure. There are also important ranking points to fight for in the race for the overall title and this now becomes muddied by the change format which comes after two rounds – Dubai and Cape Town – have already been played with quarter-finals taking place in both.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 has a record six combined men’s and women’s events with the number of women’s tournaments increasing to eight, with the men’s set at 10 rounds.
The series also forms a crucial part of Olympic preparation for the teams as they build up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the end of July. The decision to end quarter-finals for Hamilton and Sydney comes as the game’s governing body launches the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.