Teams chase promotion at World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series

Fri, 8/12/2022, 12:09 AM
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby

The captains of the 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams competing at the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2022 in Chile on 12-14 August gathered on Wednesday in Parque Metropolitano de Santiago in front of the majestic Andes mountain range.

Three days of intense competition at the Estadio Santa Laura in the Chilean capital will kick-off on Friday at 10:45 local time (GMT -4) when Kazakhstan and Colombia take to the pitch in women’s Pool C.

Match Fixtures

The huge prize at stake for the tournament winners is promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023.

The Challenger Series was introduced in 2020 to boost rugby sevens’ development across the globe and provide a pathway for promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Japan were the inaugural men’s winners and following a year break due to the global pandemic, the Challenger Series is back with a combined standalone event.

All you need to know about the Challenger Series

The global event sees teams from all six World Rugby regions represented in a competition format that replicates the Olympic Games with three pools of four teams.

The top two from each pool along with the two best third-placed teams will qualify for the quarter-finals, before the semi-finals and final will decide the tournament winners on Sunday.

In the women’s competition hosts Chile are in Pool D where they will face opposition from China, Kenya and South Africa, who played as an invitational team in the final event of the 2022 Series in Toulouse in May.

Poland and Belgium played very well as invitational teams at the 2022 Series events in Malaga and Seville and will face each other in Pool E alongside Argentina and Papua New Guinea. Japan have plenty of experience in the Series, including in Langford this year, and they will take on Kazakhstan, Colombia and Mexico in Pool F.

Joaquín Huici, Chile men’s captain, said: "Our goal is to go step by step in this tournament playing good matches against strong teams, and also to be able to achieve the championship victory and reach the World Rugby Sevens Series 2023."

Karolina Jaszczyszyn, Poland women’s captain, said: “It was a great experience for the Polish team to compete in the Series events in Spain earlier this year. We grew up physically and mentally and this experience helped us to qualify for Rugby World Cup Sevens.

“Recently we have played really good rugby and we want to try to win here, but there are also many strong teams such as China and Japan who have more experience of playing on the World Series than we do. We will do everything we can to make our dreams come true.”

Micheal Okorach, Uganda men’s captain, said: “The Commonwealth Games was a really good experience for Uganda. We always know how to get the fans on our side and it was quite amazing. We should have won that game against Australia, we played really well, but we took a draw. It was good build up and we are coming to Chile as a much better team.

“The mood in the camp is good and the players are ready. It is a tournament we have been looking forward to for a long time as we’ve been knocking on the door to get in to the Series. If we win this weekend it would be a game changer for Uganda rugby as it would open more doors for funding.”

Gissel Castañeda, Chile women’s captain, said: “The Challenger is a unique opportunity to play matches with teams that have a lot of experience in the Series. Playing in your country, being at home, gives you extra energy, motivation. Having the family watching the games is going to be very nice, a great experience.”

Max Woodward, Hong Kong men’s captain, said: “As it’s a one-off tournament, every single game matters. We have had good preparation and we’re ready to get stuck in. We have come so close to reaching the World Series in the past and becoming a core team is really important to us. It would be fantastic to play in front of our home crowd in Hong Kong in November as a core Series team.”

Liske Lategan, South Africa women’s captain, said: “We don’t often get the chance to play the top teams in the world so we are using every opportunity to learn, get better and gain experience for the future.”

Guillermo Lijtenstein, Uruguay men’s vice-captain, said: “Our focus is on being able to put Uruguay in the Series. It's the big goal for a squad that has been working so hard, qualifying would mean competing with the top sevens teams, the Formula 1 of rugby sevens. It would be incredible.”

The men's Challenger Series 2020 featured two rounds, both played in South America. Japan’s men’s team gained promotion following the inaugural pair of events. This year’s event will see the debut for women’s teams in the Challenger Series after the planned inaugural women's event scheduled to take place in March 2020 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, was unable to take place due to the pandemic.

There is plenty of top class experience in the line-up as nine men’s teams have appeared on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series previously as invitational teams. Meanwhile China and Japan have both been core teams on the women’s Series, while another eight women’s teams have played at least once in the Series.

Five of the women’s teams and nine men’s teams competing in Chile have also qualified for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 where they will play in front of an anticipated crowd of 165,000 fans across three days in Cape Town on 9-11 September.

World Rugby Chief Competitions and Performance Officer Nigel Cass said: “The World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series is a vital component of our ambitious plans to develop the sport further across the globe, and with the prize of promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 at stake for the winners, the competition across the three-day event is sure to be intense from start to finish.

“Rugby sevens is a key driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations, and it firmly remains a top priority for World Rugby. Following the highly impactful Olympic competition in Tokyo last year, which caught the imagination of many new fans worldwide, the short format game continues to expand and captivate audiences with its dynamic, skillful and exciting nature.”

The schedule for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 has been confirmed with the men’s teams kicking off in Hong Kong on 4-6 November, 2022, while the women’s competition begins in Dubai on 2-3 December as part of a combined event.

2023 Series Schedule

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