Rugby Union

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Sevens' expansion plan key plank in bid to win the battle of the west

 SEVENS rugby will be played by schoolchildren and juniors across the country in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics under a plan in development at the ARU.

ARU chief Bill Pulver said he believed the seven-a-side format was the sport's best hope for expansion in Australia, and would be a key weapon in clawing back territory ceded to rugby league and AFL in western Sydney during the past decade.

''From a high strategic level, challenge No.1 is for us to get back some of the support base that may have strayed over the last couple years, and part of that is in the west and part of that is outside the west, that's priority No.1,'' Pulver said at an announcement before the first general release of tickets for the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in June.

''In terms of geographical expansion of the game, I think Sevens is a perfect vehicle for that ,and the west will be a very important part of that. I'm looking for a plan that will have a more comprehensive schools, juniors, club, state level and national level Sevens program.

''That obviously requires investment and will take time to put in place, but we want the same level of competition and rigour in sevens ultimately that we have in the 15s game.''

The Australian men's Sevens side struggles to hold on to the players it develops when Super Rugby sides begin circling.


It has affected coach Mick O'Connor's ability to field a consistent side round to round in the Sevens world series. The women's Sevens team is ranked No.2 in the world but both sides face threats from non-traditional rugby countries ploughing resources into the sport in the lead-up to its introduction at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Pulver also moved to reassure the Sydney and Brisbane club competitions of their positions after the ARU's Premier Rugby Taskforce Review, which revealed the extent of the financial difficulties facing the majority of clubs.

''The premier rugby competition in both Sydney and Brisbane is enormously important to the game; that's the bedrock of the development of the great talent we eventually get up at the Wallabies level,'' Pulver said.

''It's enormously important that we support them in their endeavour to get that competition moving forward but I'm just not sure what the answers are at this point, and I think it's important for the ARU to sit and listen to their view first rather than simply prescribe solutions.''

Meanwhile, the ARU forecast a sell-out when British and Irish Lions tickets go on general sale at 9am on Monday.

This follows a limited release to members of the ARU Rugby Community a fortnight ago that resulted in the allocation being exhausted in just a few hours.

Tickets to Test matches range from $95 to $295, while tickets to the midweek games between the Lions and Super Rugby sides, as well as a combined Country side, start at $10 for children and $20 for adults.