England Sevens star Tom Mitchell aims to grab a rugby lifeline next month as part of a trailblazing World Tens Series slated to take place in Bermuda.
Mitchell, an eight-year England Sevens veteran before the RFU scrapped their programme in August, will be a leading light for the privately owned London Royals as part of an eight-team tournament that will include sides from USA, Asia and South Africa.
The inaugural three-event competition will run from October 24 to November 7, during which players will be contained within a Covid-19 secure bubble, with plans thereafter to expand to 16 sides playing in 12 high-profile locations throughout 2021.
World Tens operations officer Paul Holmes believes the shorter format can “do to rugby what T20 has done for cricket”, and Mitchell, who will be joined by England 7s colleagues Tom Bowen, Alex Davis and Richard de Carpentier, is pleased to be on board.
He told The Rugby Paper: “Things haven’t gone well for us over the last six months. We were gunning to have a delayed stab at the Olympics next year and give it the crack it deserves, but with no Sevens at the moment the World Tens is a good opportunity for us to get some rugby and it’s an awesome opportunity to help establish a new competition.
“It’s an exciting prospect and if it’s what we hope it will be, it’s probably the kind of thing rugby needs at the minute in terms of something positive.
“They’re looking to dress it up in a way that will be quite fresh and maybe attract new people to the game, which is important right now if we’re going to get people investing.
“We’ll get a good contingent of Sevens guys involved and it’s been good getting back in the gym again and being able to meet up with a few guys at Richmond rugby club.
“It’s tough training by yourself for a long period so although there might only be groups of three or six of us training together, at least we can get on a field and throw a ball about again.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell remains heavily involved in the bid to salvage England Sevens, and by extension Team GB, for a projected restart in the New Year.
A crowd-funding initiative has already raised around £15,000 and Mitchell is busy contacting potential sponsors to underpin their 2021 campaign, with an estimated £2m required to underpin the men and women’s teams in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics.
Mitchell, 31, explained: “In order to have a gold-standard programme we’re seeking other income sources so it’s a continual piece of work, but it’s moving along nicely and we’re very optimistic.
“It’s hard, but the squad’s been incredibly robust and mentally people have handled it pretty well set against some difficult challenges. It’s about how quick and agile we can be as a group now to adapt and grow something that’s commercially viable.
“If we can work towards getting a Sevens squad up and running again in January and secure enough external funding, we’ll be in a good place for whenever the World Series kicks in again leading up to the Olympics in July.
“Hopefully, we’ll see some regional tournaments established without the travelling, which is probably the way to go, and take it from there.”
For information on England’s crowd-funding campaign go to: www.pledgesports.org/projects /england-rugby-sevens-road-to-tokyo/