Australia’s Rugby Sevens stars have emphasised the importance of a home leg in the world tour with the future of the Gold Coast event up in the air.
Australia youngster Tom Lucas says the annual home stop in the World Sevens is “massive” for the team.
The nine-stop international series kicks off this weekend on the Gold Coast, the fourth year the Queensland city has hosted the event.
Poor crowds in the past and sluggish ticket sales heading into this year’s tournament have put the event’s future in jeopardy.
The IRB is set to meet in Singapore to finalise the host nations for next year’s sevens series but even if Australia retain a stop the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is believed to be keen on a new venue.
Just 14,281 fans turned up for September’s clash between the Wallabies and Argentina, the worst crowd for a Test in Australia since 1998, doing little to ease the ARU’s concerns about interest in events on the Gold Coast.
Lucas, a Queensland product who debuted for Australia in last year’s Gold Coast Sevens, says an Australian stop in the series is vital.
“It’s massive. There’s nowhere like playing at home,” he said.
This year’s series doubles as a qualifier for the inaugural Olympic Rugby Sevens tournament at the Rio Games in 2016.
The top-four ranked nations will qualify automatically for the Games and Australia veteran James Stannard says it’s vital to keep an Australian presence on the tour given the sport’s new status.
“It’ll encourage a lot of people to get involved in Sevens, to see it over here in person,” Stannard said.
“The more people we can get playing it, the better depth we’ll get in the years to come.
“It’s important. It’s good to have your own little cauldron that you come to play at and not let many people win.”