An International Rugby Players Sevens survey has highlighted the benefits of an additional player to squads but has raised player welfare concerns around the series.
The study, conducted across all 15 core teams on the World Rugby Sevens Series this year, also revealed that the majority of players favour a second-tier tournament to develop the game.
With almost 90% of the men’s player base responding to questions, the study is the most comprehensive undertaken in recent years. It’s been submitted to World Rugby as the governing body gets set to choose the venues, cities and tournament structure for the next four-year Sevens cycle.
THE SURVEY REVEALED:
- The vast majority (88%) of players welcomed the addition of a 13th player in the squad for tournaments, citing the benefits to welfare and injury reduction
- While Hong Kong is the most popular stop on the circuit, the majority of players see Rugby World Cup Sevens as the most important tournament this year.
- Up to 70% of players said they sometimes struggle with mental fatigue from playing and travelling on the Sevens Series, while 60% admitted to sometimes struggling with the physical load.
- Almost 80% of players said they need at least a month (without travel) to recover from back-to-back tournaments
- Artificial turf hasn’t proved popular with the players, with 70% either “disapproving” or “strongly disapproving” of the surface
- 64% believe a Tier Two Sevens competition, which is being discussed with World Rugby, would help to further develop the game
The global survey is the first of three major studies to be carried out by International Rugby Players this year, with a women’s player survey and a men’s 15’s study to be carried out later in 2018.
The findings have been presented to World Rugby and will form the basis of discussions with the governing body to further improve the Series for all stakeholders over the next four-year cycle.
International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said: “While most players are happy with the layout of the Sevens series, there are still areas that need to be addressed.
“We work on an ongoing basis with World Rugby to ensure that the players’ voice is heard. Player welfare, schedules, recovery and travel are all major issues for our members and we need to make sure that, along with getting the economic model correct, player welfare is to the fore, so that everyone can benefit.”
The survey also gave a much-needed insight into the pay and conditions of players, with 16% of men on the series describing their status as ‘amateur’ and 20% also holding a part-time job to supplement their income. Close to 60% of players play Sevens on a full-time basis.
While players are generally happy that they take the most direct routes to cities, many raised concerns about the effects on performance of flying long distances in economy class, citing injury concerns. One player said: “You have to appreciate that it’s hard for a rugby player to squeeze into an economy seat for 24 hours and be expected to train and perform as soon as they land.”
England player Charlie Hayter, who sits on the International Rugby Players Sevens Group said: “We need to get the season structure right. The number of tournaments is not the issue – we love playing the game.
“However, we need more time before tournaments to allow for mental and physical recovery. Four weeks recovery between tournaments, without travel, should be a bare minimum and a general standard of travel over long distances would be a huge step forward for the game.”
International Rugby Players has teamed up with Rugby World magazine to find out what the players think about the game’s big issues. Stay tuned for more on rugbyplayers.org and check out the July edition of Rugby World magazine which is on shelves now!
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