‘Most exciting series to date’ – Robinson

Date published: December 3 2015

England wing legend Jason Robinson is confident 2015/16's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is going to be the greatest ever as a spectacle.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup winner will be a keen observer as the new campaign kicks off this week in Dubai, with the prospect of an extra tournament being included and also the 2016 Rio Olympics adding fascinating subplots to what promises to be an entertaining few months.

Dubai, Cape Town, Wellington, Sydney, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and London are the stops where bumper crowds are set to fill venues and HSBC ambassador Robinson is clearly excited by the upcoming year as he spoke to Planet Rugby from the Middle East.

"It (Rio) makes it the most exciting series to date," he said as Dubai braces itself for a record-breaking 269 competing teams this week.

"There is so much that the international players want to achieve on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season. It is not just about winning every tournament leg but also the fact that they have the opportunity to represent their country at Rio in the 2016 Olympics.

"Lot's of players have been around and done amazing things but this is one thing they have never been able to do. I'm sure if they win a gold medal every other medal they have won to date will be getting moved to the side and it will get a prominent place in their cabinet."

That's a view echoed by Giles Morgan, Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, HSBC, who can't wait for 2015/16: "HSBC has been a committed, long term supporter of rugby around the world but the start of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai feels like a pivotal moment for the game. The opportunity over the next ten months is huge. World Rugby, unions and sponsors are committed to converting the opportunity. The gold medal for rugby will be to use Rio 2016 as a catalyst to drive even greater growth, participation and engagement in the game."

Looking forward, Robinson is excited by the fact that last season was so open in terms of different teams winning tournaments, with USA lifting the London crown a clear sign that up-and-coming rugby nations are moving in the right direction, which will help sevens to grow.

"All teams will want to get off to a good start in Dubai," he continued. "We've seen the competition is getting more competitive with Fiji winning the series, USA winning in London while South Africa won Dubai last year. No team can just turn up and expect to win and there will be some great talent out there. It's going to be a fantastic year when players will be able to get themselves primed and in form for Rio."

Sevens is an ideal tool to attract new audiences to rugby and with the prospect of two series legs being held in North America next March, Robinson was in agreement that this form of the game is perfect to help grow the game, especially after the successful recent World Cup.

"Sevens itself is great for the neutral, for someone who has never watched the game before or have seen a few bits of a simpler version of rugby. It's fast, it's furious, it's skilful; you don't have all the technical aspects like in fifteens to slow the game down," he added.

"All teams on the World Sevens Series want to play fast and wide, it gives you an opportunity as a player to express yourself. These guys have got to be some of the fittest athletes in the world and having the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Bryan Habana wanting to play in sevens shows how players are now seeing this. Before it used to be sevens players wanting to move to fifteens and now it's the other way round and that again will create a lot of interest for the sport and hopefully make those players household names all over the world."

A first chance comes on Friday when the Men's tournament kicks-off at 7he Sevens ground, with New Zealand the favourites to win the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series opener. Sir Gordon Tietjens' side are pooled alongside USA, France and Portugal and include Super Rugby stars Akira Ioane and Augustine Pulu but haven't named the aforementioned Williams in their squad, as Robinson discussed the likely contenders.

"New Zealand are always going to be one of the favourites as they are consistent. They are one of many teams now who can win," he said.

"If USA start how they ended last year it's going to make for an interesting competition. When you have Carlin Isles and Perry Baker who have got such pace, anything can happen. That's why you can't take any legs for granted and why sevens games can change in the blink of an eye."

Jason Robinson is an HSBC ambassador and was speaking to Adam Kyriacou