Lapasset hails record season for Sevens
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset has hailed the global success of another record-breaking HSBC Sevens World Series.
Once again the Series as a whole set a new attendance record with just over 547,500 fans supporting the nine events played across five continents, outstripping the previous best of 500,100.
There were four new venues on the 2011/12 Series, all of which proved an instant hit with supporters. Australia's move to the Gold Coast was well supported at the start of the season; Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium provided a cauldron of atmosphere in South Africa; Scotland's switch from Edinburgh to Glasgow attracted new fans to the game and a return to Tokyo was significant for Japanese rugby as it prepares to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
At three of the nine venues spectators were also treated to top women's action, with the IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup acting as a pre-cursor to a new Women's Sevens Series, to be announced in due course.
"This has been a magnificent season of achievement for Rugby Sevens both on and off the pitch," said IRB Chairman, Bernard Lapasset.
"The action has been more competitive than ever before, with five different Cup winners and no fewer than thirteen teams reaching the Cup quarter finals, including the likes of Spain, Canada, Tonga and Kenya.
"In the stands and around the grounds the carnival atmosphere of a Sevens tournament continues to provide a unique appeal to rugby fans all around the world. Together these factors combine to make the sport an incredibly enticing prospect as we move ever closer to our Olympic debut in 2016."
New Zealand won a 10th World Series crown at Twickenham. On arriving home in Auckland their coach Gordon Tietjens, freshly inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame, was quick to stress his players' achievements given the wider picture of Sevens.
"It just keeps growing, the crowds keep getting bigger, the competition's getting tougher, seven or eight teams now could win a tournament. We've got to get more numbers playing the game here and I think that will happen with it going to the Olympics in 2016," Tietjens said.
Andrea de Vincentiis, Head of Rugby Sponsorship for World Series title sponsor HSBC, also paid tribute to the players and fans.
"When HSBC decided to invest in the World Series it was because the bank saw the potential of the already popular and successful international competition. Since then it has continued to thrive and all nine venues this year hosted successful tournaments which attracted fans from all countries," he said.
"The continued growth in attendance and broadcast coverage illustrates just how popular the Series has become, with Sevens set to have a bright future over the coming four years in the build-up to the Olympic Games in 2016."