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World Rugby needs to consider for interest's sake

Monday, January 29, 2018

Fiji's Olympic gold medal-winning coach Ben Ryan believes World Rugby needs to sharpen up its world sevens series and consider the idea of knockout tournaments to prevent an oversupply of unnecessary rugby.

Ryan said it was tedious at times watching 16 male and 12 female teams play all of their games on the main stadium.

For the first time in Sydney, all men's and women's fixtures was played on Allianz Stadium across three days, unlike last time when some women's games were controversially held on a back field.

As a result, on Saturday and yesterday there was to be more irrelevant games that fans have to sit through before they can watch the exciting knockout clashes.

Not all world series legs feature both men and women but even those that are just one-gender event, Ryan believes a truncated schedule needs to be put in place.

"I like the idea of changing the format almost to a straight knockout where you start with 16 and go down pretty quickly," Ryan told Fairfax Media.

"Coaches would hate it because you're going to get upsets and the pressure is on but that's good for supporters and this is a brand we've got to build a bit more.

"They (World Rugby) need to look at the format and just sharpen it up a bit.

"I don't think it works having the format that it currently is, which is every team playing six games and lower level teams. It's too much rugby. You could be a rugby nut but you're not going to sit here and watch 80 games of sevens over three days.

"The world series is getting more and more popularity but we need to shorten it all."

Asked whether some of the non-important matches — like a 13th place play-off for example — could be moved to a back field, Ryan replied: "You could do, or just get rid of them.

"I know there is some need for classification but you don't have to have those games. People want to watch the big games, the big knockouts. Finding a way to put pure knockout in the tournament is a good way to go."

Ryan, who coached Fiji to an historic gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016, has coached properly for just 30 minutes since that day.

He is a consultant to the French sevens team and manages to keep himself busy. He has written a book that will be released in Australia in May.

The 46-year-old does, however, miss coaching but does not think he'll be head of a team come the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"I'm not done with coaching," Ryan said.

"I would like to go back into a 7s program at some point. XVs (coaching) didn't excite me enough and that probably told me that 7s is where I want to stay. The Olympics is pretty addictive.

"It's probably too soon (to coach at Tokyo). It's qualification next season. I haven't seriously thought I'd be there in 2020."

As for Australian women's coach Tim Walsh, who has announced he will leave his position after the Commonwealth Games in April, Ryan expects him to be snapped up quickly by other nations, if not his own.

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