World Rugby said on Tuesday it would allocate $2.5 million (1.86 million pounds) among rugby sevens nations that have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics to cope with further disruptions to the global sevens calendar due to the novel coronavirus.
The governing body said it had called off the Sydney and Hamilton rounds of the World Sevens Series scheduled for January “due to the ongoing and dynamic global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Organisers now hope to kick off the series in Hong Kong and Singapore in April.
With the global championship a key plank in Olympic preparations, World Rugby said it would make “a dedicated initial investment of $2.5 million” to support qualified nations.
“Each union that has qualified … will be able to apply to World Rugby for funding which can be directed towards rugby sevens squad training camps, competition support, technical and sports science and medical programmes,” it said in a statement.
World Rugby was forced to scrap the last rounds of the 2019/20 series due to the coronavirus and make New Zealand winners of both the men’s and women’s championships.
The Dubai and Cape Town rounds of the 2020/21 series, provisionally scheduled for November and December, were called off last month.
Rugby Australia (RA) interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said in a statement it was “incredibly disappointing” that Sydney would not go ahead but looked forward to the tournament returning to the city in 2022.
RA said it could apply for $200,000 from World Rugby’s grant, or $100,000 each for its qualified men’s and women’s teams.
World Rugby said it was working to confirm dates for the Olympic repechage event in the first half of 2021, where the final two women’s nations and one men’s nation to qualify for Tokyo will be decided.