Stakes Are Higher Than Ever Heading Into Premier Rugby Sevens’ Third Year
By Alexander Diegel
Premier Rugby Sevens returns for its third season with more teams, more competition, more host cities and more at stake for its competitors amidst an enhanced format. Last year, the season played out with four men’s and four women’s teams competing for seedings ahead of the Championship weekend. This year, those numbers have doubled and the most electric sports league on the planet just got more exciting. There will now be eliminations and teams will have to earn their way into that final weekend.
Two expansion franchises, the Golden State Retrievers and Pittsburgh Steeltoes, combined with the return of the New York Locals and Texas Team, increased the competition to eight men’s and eight women’s teams. The added squads create a traditional playoff format that will see half of the competitors battling for their respective conference, making every match matter ahead of the Championship tournament at Audi Field in Washington, DC on August 6.
“We’ve created this format where you’ve got to earn an invite to the big dance,” explained PR7s Founder & CEO Owen Scannell. “We wanted teams to have something to qualify for. You can’t just coast through the season; in order to make the playoffs, you’ve got to perform. It’s high stakes for the players, the coaches and the coaching staffs to make it. From a fan perspective, they understand all of these games matter.”
The structure of the competition makes it so that no team qualifies for the playoffs after the Conference Kickoffs on June 17 and 24, and likewise, no team is eliminated. The margins between a first and fourth place finish in that opening competition will be massive, increasing the pressure in the world’s only professional 7s league.
While the competition in general feels very familiar to an American audience — a possession-based game, featuring a lot of scoring and explosive, athletic highlights — there is one particular distinction that adds a uniqueness to this league: that is the United Championship. Of course a traditional Men’s and Women’s champion will be crowned, but there will be a third championship to honor the franchise with the highest number of total league points throughout the season.
“We’re the first competition that has created a combined stakes between men’s teams and women’s teams for a combined goal,” Scannell explained. “The United Championship is such a cool dynamic because it showcases our commitment to equality. We aren’t a men’s league or a women’s league, we’re a sport for everybody, which encompasses what rugby is all about. For fans of the teams, the ability for a franchise to win that championship outright displays a combined effort that is working together — if your women’s team wins the championship, but your men’s team comes in fourth, you likely aren’t winning the United Championship. Both teams have to succeed on the pitch.”
Fans from the first two years will get to support their cities’ squads yet again — or jump in with one of the new teams. We will see a healthy return of many of the vets from the first two seasons. To date, the best and brightest of American sevens talent, including Perry Baker, Madison Hughes, Stephen Tomasin, Naya Tapper, Abby Gustaitis and Alev Kelter.
There will also be new names in new places, and exciting opportunities for players to make a name for themselves as fresh rosters are filled out, just as Logan Tago did with an MVP performance in 2021 en route to an international career. The fun begins ahead of the June 17 kickoff.
New teams will be built and new players selected. Don’t miss out on any of the action, as like the games themselves, the season will be over in the blink of an eye.
Alexander Diegel is a veteran rugby reporter and club player and President of Old Gaelic Rugby. You can follow him on Twitter @alaxanderdiegel.