New Zealand Rugby has won its bid to retain hosting rights for a World Series Sevens event and is believed to be planning to alternate where the tournament is played between Hamilton and Fiji.

The plan, as understood by the Herald, is that the 2019 event will be in Hamilton as part of the two-year agreement reached between NZR and World Rugby in mid-2017 when the former was granted a licence to continue hosting a World Series event on the condition it no longer used Wellington as the venue.

NZR is believed to have won a tender to extend its hosting licence beyond 2019 and has floated the idea of not using Hamilton as the venue every year - but instead alternating with Suva.

With New Zealand's existing agreement due to expire after Hamilton hosts next year's event in January, World Rugby opened a competitive tender process, inviting interested parties to bid for the hosting rights for 2020 and beyond.


It is believed that New Zealand has won the bid - beating a tender, almost bizarrely, from the Fijian Rugby Union amongst others.

That means New Zealand has secured the right to continue to host a World Series Sevens event in 2020 and 2021 and possibly for longer depending on the length of the contract agreed in the tender.

The licence sits with NZR and they are effectively free to host the event where they choose as long as World Rugby agrees.

The prospect of using Fiji, despite them making their own bid, as the host venue of NZR's tournament every other year is one which World Rugby has presumably approved as part of the tender process.

Separately, NZR is also believed to have tendered to host a Women's World Series event to ensure the world champion Black Ferns can play in front of their home crowd for the first time.

The Herald understands that NZR, if it's successful, would prefer to run a male and female tournament co-jointly.

While the abbreviated game was invented in Scotland, Fiji is considered to be the spiritual home of sevens.

Fiji's men's team are the reigning Olympic champions and have won three World Series crowns and have never finished outside the top four.

NZ players perform a haka as they celebrate winning the Sevens Rugby World Cup. New Zealand v England, Final. Rugby World Cup Sevens. Photo /
NZ players perform a haka as they celebrate winning the Sevens Rugby World Cup. New Zealand v England, Final. Rugby World Cup Sevens. Photo /

The popularity of sevens in Fiji is enormous and confidence will be high that the National Stadium in Suva, which has a capacity of 15,000, could easily be filled on multiple days if a World Series event was held there.

The proposal, obviously, also suits NZR who are aware how quickly and dramatically a sevens event can lose its allure and become a financial liability.

Having been hugely successful in the first decade of the millennium, the Wellington Sevens stopped being a must-do event and posted a small financial loss in 2015 which worsened in 2017 when only 70 per cent of the near 70,000 tickets were sold.

The failure of the 2017 event meant NZR had to either give up its hosting licence or persuade World Rugby that it could deliver a financially viable tournament by shifting to Hamilton.

It managed to do the latter and this year justified that decision when the event sold out across both days.

But the lesson learned from Wellington is that events can quickly become stale. By swapping the venues to a bi-annual hosting basis, NZR could potentially continue to generate high demand for both.

By having an event in Fiji, NZR would also be fulfilling one if its stated goals of helping promote and grow rugby in the wider Pacific region.

NZR Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said: "We've been working for some time on our proposal to continue future hosting of the World Sevens Series in New Zealand, and we've made no secret of our desire to include a women's tournament to that schedule.

"At this stage, nothing has been confirmed, and we're not in a position to confirm plans beyond 2019."