In the build-up to the opening round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Australia this weekend, the International Rugby Board has announced details of the new promotion / relegation structure for the Series, as the sport continues to build towards its Olympic Games debut in 2016.
From the 2013/14 season, which kicks off on the Gold Coast on October 12-13, a two-stage promotion and relegation process comes into effect.
Promotion to core team status for the 2014/15 campaign will be decided at round seven of the upcoming 2013/14 Series, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, where 12 regional qualifiers will battle for the one promotion place on offer.
Relegation from core team status will be decided at the end of the season, with the bottom-ranked of the 15 current core teams* after round nine, the Marriott London Sevens, losing their ever-present status for the 2014/15 campaign.
The new format is in line with the IRB Sevens Plan developed in partnership with the IRB's Member Unions and approved by the IRB Council and reflects the IRB's mission to deliver a pathway that ensures that all Member Unions have a transparent and merit-based opportunity to participate in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "We are now well into our first four-year Olympic cycle for Rugby Sevens and it is important that the opportunity exists for all nations to progress to Series core team status if they are good enough.
"This new system guarantees that a new nation will be rewarded with that opportunity in the 2014/15 Series.
"It also provides even more excitement for the fans attending these thrilling events, or following on television and online around the world."
Giles Morgan, Global Head of Sponsorship & Events, HSBC Holdings plc, commented: "Each year the HSBC Sevens World Series gets even more competitive with more countries emerging as potential Cup winners at each tournament. It is exciting for fans and players alike and all contributes to the growth of the sport around the world."
* Current HSBC Sevens World Series core teams: Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, USA, Wales