"The 7's working group on the Performance Game Board was tasked with looking at potential improvements to all aspects of domestic Club 7s and following are the recommendations,” said Steve Lewis, 7s working group chair. “We believe that the new qualification process on the men’s side will deliver the most competitive tournament possible, showcasing more of the country's best teams and players, and that the eligibility changes will simplify life for players, coaches and administrators alike"
With that in mind, the group – comprised of 7s specialists such as Lewis, Chris Ryan, Howard Kent, Joanne Liu, Patrick McNally, and Erik Geib – have announced their first round of proposed changes to the 7s senior competition format.
- Player Eligibility: Teams will be able to carry rosters comprised of 9 U.S. citizens and a maximum of 3 legally-residing non-citizens at Club 7s qualifiers and the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship. This change is to simplify individual player eligibility.
- Roster Size: At events with approved tournament doctors, teams may also carry a 13th ‘traveling reserve player.’ Traveling reserves may only participate if one of the 12 rostered participants is ruled medically unable to compete for the remainder of the event by the approved tournament doctor.
- Seeding Allotment: All competitive regions (CRs) will be guaranteed at least one seed per division at the championship event. In the men’s competition, six additional seeds will be granted through a weighing of competitive performance over the last three years, plus two seeds granted through the new ‘open’ competitions. No CR may have more than three seeds.
Changes to the women’s competition are currently under review. Both the men’s & women’s championship events will continue to have 16 teams each.
- Men’s Open Qualifiers: Two men’s tournaments (one in the Eastern U.S.; one in the Western U.S.) will take place in 2018, with the winner of each automatically qualified for the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship.
If the winner comes from a region with the maximum number of seeds allowed (3), the winning team will automatically receive a bid to Nationals but its region will not gain an additional seed. Should that occur, the runner-up team will earn an additional seed for its region but must earn qualification through its qualifier series (i.e. the runner-up can *not* gain automatic entry via the Open system).
- Competitive Region Qualifiers: All competitive regions must play at least two – but no more than four - qualifying tournaments to competitively seed its teams for the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship. Regions that intend to use championship tournaments must count their tournaments as part of that total (2-4), and regions with split qualifiers must count each tournament as a single qualifier event. Additional tournaments may be played by 7s participating teams but cannot count towards qualification to Nationals.
- Certification of Events: All qualifying events must be certified by the 7s working group. Certified events will be expected to follow minimum event performance standards, and all certified events will appears on usaclub7s.com.
After review of the previously-decided date, the 7s working group has also confirmed that the 2018 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship will remain the weekend of August 11-12. The location for the event will be announced no later than March 19, and all bids for the event must be received by USA Rugby no later than February 26.
The champions of the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship are enshrined on the Emil Signes Cup. The cup is in dedication to Emil Signes, a pioneer of Rugby 7s for the men and women of the United States of America.