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After receiving numerous high quality applications from across Australia, the final eight teams for the inaugural Aon National University Sevens Series have been finalised.
Five states and territories will be represented in the competition, with ACT, NSW, QLD, SA and Tasmania all to field teams. The Australia-wide spread of the universities reflects the growing demand for women’s Rugby Sevens across the country, especially following the gold medal efforts of the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team at the Rio Olympics, which prompted a 33% increase in female club Sevens participation in 2016 (after a 33% increase in 2015).
The Aon National University Sevens Series will involve four tournaments, with the first one scheduled to kick off in August. Members of the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens squad will be divided up between the teams which will each comprise a mix of students and non-students (with 50% students being the squad minimum and no on-field quota to be employed).
Aon, who today announced a four-year partnership with Australian Rugby will be the naming rights partner of the competition.
The competition will fill a much needed gap in the national women’s Sevens pathway, offering the nation’s best up-and-coming talent the opportunity to train and play in a high performance environment to stake their claims for national selection.
The eight universities selected for the Series were subject to a rigorous selection process that considered what each applicant could offer the Series in terms of high performance programs and national community engagement, amongst other criteria.
Australian General Manager of High Performance Ben Whitaker said: “This is a really exciting step for women’s Sevens in Australia. The women’s University Sevens Series will fill a gap in the existing women’s Sevens pathway. The best Sevens players in the country will take part, so it’ll be fantastic to watch. It will be an elite domestic competition with a national footprint, which will act as a stepping stone towards national selection.
“With more regular training and more representative-level games available, the next generation of Sevens stars will be able to refine their skills and push for selection in the full-time national squad."
Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said: “This Series will fall at a time when our contracted squad members will be available to play, which means the up-and-coming talent will have the opportunity to play with world class athletes, which will only improve their skills.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing the benefits of the Series, and we believe it will have a huge impact on the growth of women’s Sevens in Australia. Most of our Olympic players didn’t come from a rugby background but with this new pathway available, younger players will have a clear goal and be motivated to strive for selection in these teams to develop their skills at a higher level.”
CEO of Australian University Sport Don Knapp said: "The advent of the Women's National Sevens series is a ground breaking development for university sport in Australia, and a major step forward for women's sport generally. This program will provide a great opportunity for elite, female student-athletes to pursue a dual career education and at the same time fill a significant gap in the women's Sevens development pathway."
The eight teams who will compete in the 2017 Aon National University Sevens Series are:
1. University of Canberra, ACT
2. University of Adelaide, SA
3. University of Tasmania, TAS
4. University of New England, NSW
5. Macquarie University, NSW
6. Bond University, QLD
7. University of Queensland, QLD
8. Griffith University, QLD