Expansion, Excitement Surround Premier Rugby Sevens Third Season
By Alexander Diegel
Premier Rugby Sevens returns for year number three this summer with new franchises, new tournament stops, new host cities, and new players. The added teams create a bigger competition, less room at the top, and qualification for the Championship Tournament. In short, every match matters. And being that this is rugby 7s, the most explosive, unpredictable sport on the planet, that should excite fans across the globe.
We’re still two months ahead of the competition, but PR7s GM Mike Tolkin can already feel the energy surrounding the 2023 season.
“We’ve seen from the number of PR7s Talent Identification Camps that the interest level in PR7s is surging,” Tolkin explained. “Across the country, we’ve had several hundred American players taking the leap of faith to see if they can make the show and bring their skills to sevens biggest stage. The energy and enthusiasm from players has been inspiring, and we’re hearing from fans that are excited to come back. There’s a great amount of buzz surrounding the season.”
All of the growth represents an opportunity for more players to break through with the incremental roster slots looking to be filled with domestic talent.
“Not only do we have new franchises, we’ll have a lot of new and exciting players for fans to watch,” Tolkin added. “The addition of Pittsburgh and Minneapolis as tour stops will be a huge moment as locally identified players will be featured as part of the first professional rugby ever in those markets. Now that we have Eastern and Western Conference qualifiers for the playoffs, there’s a tremendous amount of jeopardy for teams qualifying to make the championship weekend.”
Joining the fray are the Golden State Retrievers in the West and Pittsburgh Steeltoes in the East. Each franchise has a men’s and a women’s team and will join the defending Men’s Champions, the SoCal Loggerheads, the 2022 women’s Champs, the Southern Headliners, as well as the Rocky Mountain Experts, Northern Loonies, Texas Team, and New York Locals to round out the competition.
The two new franchises have been added to traditional East-West format, which dials up the pressure for 16 total teams to perform at their best through the entirety of the season. The competition’s format creates a season of high-stakes rugby; the top two men’s and top two women’s teams from each conference will qualify for the final. The other four teams will watch from home.
After the Conference Kickoff tournaments, all teams will enter the all-important Conference Finals with a chance to advance to the Championship. Similarly, while winning the Kickoff will present a tremendous advantage in terms of advancing, no team will have their ticket punched to the Championship game.
In short, every match matters amidst the buildup to the Championship weekend, which plays out in Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on August 6. The action gets underway in Austin (June 17) and Minneapolis (June 24) for the Eastern Conference Kickoff and Western Conference Kickoff, respectively. The action then turns to San Jose (July 15) and Pittsburgh (July 23) for the Western Conference Finals and Eastern Conference Finals. Find the full schedule and ticket info here.
Unique to this competition is the fact that each franchise will compete for a total of three trophies: the A. Jon Prusmack Cup for the men, the Kathy Flores Cup for the women, and the unprecedented United Championship. The United Championship goes to the franchise whose men’s and women’s teams combine for the most points. Season points are based on team results from tournament to tournament and accrue based on competition results – winning a tournament will accrue a team the most points, and coming in fourth will yield the fewest. Franchises that have both their men’s and women’s teams qualify for the playoffs will have huge advantages when it comes to winning the United Championship.
If you can’t make it in person to see one of the five 2023 tournaments, there will be plenty of opportunities to watch via CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and Tubi. There will also be increased written coverage, as well as an official podcast, the Rugby Sevens Rollercoaster Podcast, that will take fans through the ups and downs, twists and turns of the season.
With all due respect to Billy Idol, it is PR7s screaming “more, more, more” in 2023: More teams, more players, more matches, and more coverage. All of the enhancements should make for more fun as we enter the second year of Premier Rugby Sevens.