‘It’s not perfect’: Castle urges change to Sevens format

Charlotte Caslick of runs with the ball before scoring a try against France during their Pool A match during Day 1 of the Sydney 7’s rugby competition at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Friday, January 26, 2018. (AAP Image/David Moir) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
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Here is what is really shit about Charlotte Caslick running her mouth off after the Aussie women’s Sydney Sevens triumph on Sunday.

Rugby got it right for once and wound up with a $700,000-odd hole in its pocket. That’s shit.

The code’s public face, player of the final Charlotte Caslick, is a sassy, fierce and fired-up athlete who pushes the envelope off the field as much as she does on it.

Raelene Castle knows that. It is why the new Rugby chief and her World Rugby counterpart, Brett Gosper, spent much of their meeting on Monday talking about how the World Series format could be reformed.

“There is recognition by World Rugby and Rugby that the format needs some more work and that if we want to see [integrated tournaments] continue to develop we are going to have to look at how that can be done more effectively for the men and the women,” Castle said.

Reducing the number of games in a tournament is one option that will be looked at. Former Fiji men’s coach Ben Ryan has called for the entire series to move to a knockout format. Ryan’s rationale was to reduce the number of games and make the tournament a sharper experience for fans, but it could also help rein in operational costs.

“That would be one of the things we’d want to discuss,” Castle said. “Whether the full range of plate games would continue to be the priority, when you’ve got double the number of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals as the high profile games you could use from the men and women.

“Strategically, they’re the big changes you have to be thinking about.”

There is no doubt the three-day format needs tweaking. While Caslick’s heat-of-the moment gripe about 9.30am games raised hackles, feedback from n and international teams was that it was a hard slog mentally and physically to prepare for up to six games staggered across three days. Castle said those concerns would be taken seriously.

“It’s not perfect for either [the men or women], but it’s a really strategic and constructive step forward to have the tournaments integrated and to make sure the women and the men are playing in front of strong crowds,” she said.

It is tough to determine whether or not this year’s suppressed attendance in Sydney – 20,000 down on last year – was a product of the extraordinary Day long weekend and could bounce back in coming years.

Certainly a 13 per cent lift in broadcast figures across the three-day tournament suggests the smaller live crowd was not the full picture on ‘s appetite for sevens. Fox Sports reported 62,000 viewers for the women’s final between and New Zealand on Sunday afternoon and a peak of 78,000 for the n men’s upset win over South Africa.

But three full days of rugby also hit Rugby ‘s operational budget, a circumstance other host nations would not escape if they wanted to follow ‘s lead.

“As a showcase for men’s and women’s sevens the additional cost is worth it to promote, particularly to young women, the pathway into being a women’s sevens player and therefore into the Olympics, but there is no doubt there is a baseline additional operational cost,” Castle said.

“What Rugby and World Rugby achieved over the three days was an enormous step forward for sevens, particularly women’s sevens, however we recognise that the fully integrated tournaments create challenges from a high-performance perspective and these will need to be addressed if they are going to become a more regular tournament on the calendar.”

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