All matches shall be played according to the World Rugby bye-laws, regulations and laws of the game with seven-a-side variations as framed by World Rugby. These can be found on the World Rugby website: www.worldrugby.org.

The 2016-17 series will be a 12 team (11 core teams and one invitational team in each tournament to be determined by World Rugby) league format comprising six tournaments.

All the teams participating in the series will receive competition points according to their ranking at the end of each tournament. The overall winner of the series will be determined by the team with the most series points as set out below.

HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series ranking points

Cup winner and gold medallist - 20
Cup finalist and silver medallist - 18
Bronze medal match winner - 16
Bronze medal match finalist - 14
Fifth place match winner - 12
Fifth place match loser - 10
Seventh place play-off winner - 8
Seventh place play-off loser - 6
Challenge Trophy winner - 4
Challenge Trophy runner-up - 3
Eleventh place play-off winner - 2
Eleventh place play-off loser - 1

In the event of a tournament being abandoned, there will be no series points allocated.

(i) In the event of two or more teams being equal on points for any position on the series table, the team with the highest margin of points scored for and against in all the series matches shall be the higher ranked;

(ii) In the event of (i) above not providing a decision, the team which has the best difference between tries scored for and tries scored against in all its series matches shall be the higher ranked;

(iii) In the event of (ii) above not providing a decision, the position on the series table will be considered equal (i.e. a tie)

Tournament Format

All the tournaments in the series follow the same format with a pool and a knockout stage.

Pool phase

Before each tournament, the 12 teams will be placed in three pools of four teams. For Dubai, the pool seeding will be based on the final ranking of the 2015-16 Series. For all subsequent events, seeding will be based on the final ranking from the previous tournament. Each tournament in the series will be a 12-team competition with a format consisting of three pools of four. 

Pool A Pool B Pool C
Seed 1 Seed 2 Seed 3
Seed 6 Seed 5 Seed 4
Seed 7 Seed 8 Seed 9
Seed 12 Seed 11 Seed 10

Teams will play each other in each pool on a round robin basis. Points will be awarded for these matches on the following basis:

Win = 3 points
Draw = 2 points
Loss = 1 point
No show = 0 points

No extra time shall be played in the pool phase.

Rankings at the conclusion of the pool phase

At the conclusion of the pool phase, the teams in a pool are ranked one through four based on their cumulative match points, and identified respectively as winner, runner up, third and fourth.

Pool A Pool B Pool C
A1: Winner B1: Winner C1: Winner
A2: Runner-up B2: Runner-up C2: Runner-up
A3: Third B3: Third C3: Third
A4: Fourth B4: Fourth B4: Fourth


If, at the completion of the pool phase, two team teams are equal on match points, the winner of the match in which the two tied teams have played each other will be the higher ranked.

If, at the completion of the pool phase, two teams have played each other resulting in a draw OR more than two teams are level on match points, the following criteria will be used in the following order until one of the teams can be determined as the higher ranked:

(i) the team which has the best difference between points scored for and points scored against in all its pool matches in that tournament will be the higher ranked;

(ii) the team which has the best difference between tries scored for and tries scored against in all its pool matches shall be the higher ranked;

(iii) the team which has scored most points in all its pool matches shall be the higher ranked;

(iv) the team which has scored most tries in all its pool matches shall be the higher ranked; and

(v) if none of the above produce a result, then it will be resolved by the toss of a coin. 

Knock-out phase

Eight teams will play quarter-finals in the Cup competition. The draw for the quarter-finals of the Cup will be;

QF1: B1 v best third place
QF2: C1 v A2
QF3: B2 v C2
QF4: A1 v second-best third place

The remaining four teams will play semi-finals for the Challenge Trophy competition. The draw for the semi-finals of the Challenge Trophy will be;

SFB1: Third best third place v third best fourth place
SFB2: Best fourth place v second best fourth place

In order to rank the third placed teams and the fourth placed teams across the pools, the criteria set out in points (i) to (v) will apply.

The winners of the Cup quarter-finals will go on to play in the Cup semi-finals. The draw for the semi-finals will be:

SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
SF2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4

The losers of the Cup quarter-finals will go on to play in the fifth place semi-finals. The draw for the fifth place semi-finals will be;

PSF1: Loser QF1 v Loser QF2
PSF2: Loser QF3 v Loser QF4

The winners of the Cup semi-finals will compete for the Cup (first place) and gold and silver medals. The losers of the Cup semi-finals will compete for the bronze medal.

The winners of the fifth place semi-finals will compete for fifth place. The losers will compete for seventh place.

The winners of the Challenge Trophy semi-finals will compete for the Challenge Trophy (ninth place). The losers of the Challenge Trophy semi-finals will compete for 11th place.

Match duration and knock-out match resolution

(a) The duration of matches, including the Cup final on a trial basis in 2016-17, will be seven minutes each half with a two-minute half time interval. 

(b) During the knock-out competitions, in the event of a match being drawn at the end of normal time, sudden death (next score wins) / extra time will be played until a winner is determined. A two-minute water break will be held at the end of normal time.

(c) The extra time is played in periods of five minutes. After each period the teams will change ends without interval. In extra time the team which scores first will immediately be declared the winner without further play.

(d) A toss by the team managers and the referee will be conducted to determine which team will kick off the commencement of the extra time and chose which end the team will kick off from.

Refusal to play and expelled teams

(a) If a team wilfully refuses to play, or wilfully abandons a match in progress, without the prior consent of the referee, then, subject to confirmation by the Disputes Committees, that team will be expelled from the tournament.

(b) If a team has been expelled from the tournament, for whatever reason, then

- that team shall be deemed to have been awarded no pool competition table points and to have scored no tries or points in the pool matches; and

- for the purposes of determining standings in the pool phase, all match results against such team shall be deemed null and void. This means that all pool competition points awarded in matches against the expelled team and tries and points scored or conceded in matches against such team will not be taken into account in determining standings in the pool table.

Cancelled and abandoned matches

Apart from the wilful abandonment of a match and subsequent expulsion under Section 5.4 in the event of a match having to be stopped after its commencement under the provisions of the laws of the game, then subject to confirmation by the Disputes Committee, the following procedure shall apply:

(a) Where a match has been abandoned either at half-time or at any time in the second half, the result and any points and tries scored by each team in the match shall stand.

(b) Where a pool match has been abandoned during the first half the result shall be declared a draw. In this instance, each team will be awarded two match points and any points and tries scored will count towards the total points and tries scored by each team in all their pool matches

(c) In the knock-out phase, if the teams are drawn, the winner shall be determined in accordance with the following criteria, in the following order:

(i) the team which has scored most tries during the match is declared the winner;

(ii) the team that has scored most points during the tournament is declared the winner;

(iii) the team which has scored most tries during the tournament is declared the winner;

(iv) the team that has received less red cards during the match is declared the winner;

(v) the team that has received less yellow cards during the match is declared winner;

(vi) the team that has received less red cards during the tournament is declared the winner;

(vii) the team that has received less yellow cards during the tournament is declared winner;

(viii) if none of the above produce a result, then the winner will be determined with a toss of a coin.

ON-FIELD PRESENTATON

(i) Teams and players must participate in tournaments in their national sevens team strip, which must be registered with the Series Director prior to the commencement of the tournament. All players in a team must wear the same jersey, shorts and socks that are of a standard commensurate with the prestige of an international rugby match and in compliance with World Rugby Regulation 11.

(ii) Teams must have an alternate set of jerseys to wear for games where there is a colour clash. The alternate set of jerseys must be submitted and approved pursuant to Section 5.7.2 and must also be registered with the Series Director as per the requirements for kit in Section 5.

(iii) For any match where there is a colour clash, the team wearing the alternate kit will be determined by a coin toss or at the direction of the Series Director.

(iv) Squad numbers (1-12) will be assigned to all players who participate in any match in a tournament in the series. Once assigned a number, a player will retain such number for the duration of the tournament. Numbers must be of a sufficient size and suitable design, preferably white if on coloured shirts and black if on white shirts, so as to be clearly identifiable from commentary and match tracking positions in the stands. Please note that in the case where the jersey has either a hoop or patterned design, the numbers must have a white background and border in order to ensure that players can be clearly identified. The alternate set of jerseys must also be clearly numbered 1-12. 

SUBSTITUTIONS

Definitions

i) Substitution = temporary replacement of a player who has left the field for bleeding or when a front row player is temporarily suspended.

ii) Replacement = permanent replacement of a player for tactical reasons or for injury. A player who has been replaced may not return to the field for the remainder of the match.

Law amendment

At their interim meeting in October 2015, the World Rugby Council agreed to the introduction of a rolling substitute system for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16 on a trial basis. The sevens variation law which will be applied in the trial is as follows.

Section 3 - Sevens Law Variations

3.4 Players nominated as substitutes
- A team may nominate up to five replacements/substitutes.
- A team may substitute or replace up to five players.
- A team may substitute the same player more than once as long as no more than 5 substitutions are made in total. See 3.13 for exception

3.13 Substituted players rejoining the match
If a player is substituted, that player may return and play in that match under the following circumstances:
-Up to 5 tactical substitutions per game
- In addition to which players may return to play when replacing:
a player with a blood injury in accordance with Law 3.10
a player undertaking a Head Injury Assessment in accordance with Law 3.11.

Law trials

At their interim meeting in November 2015, the World Rugby Council approve five changes to law to be globally trialled in 2017. 

Law 5 Time
Add to 5.7(e) If a penalty is kicked into touch after time has elapsed without touching another player, the referee allows the throw-in to be taken and play continues until the next time the ball becomes dead.
Reasoning: To discourage teams from infringing in the dying moments of the game.

Law 8 Advantage
Add to 8.1(a) When there are multiple penalty infringements by the same team, the referee may allow the captain of the non-offending team to choose the most advantageous of the penalty marks.
Reasoning: To discourage repeat offending when advantage is already being played and to reward teams against whom repeat offending has taken place.

Law 9 Method of Scoring
9.A.1 (points values)
Penalty Try. If a player would probably have scored a try but for foul play by an opponent, a penalty try is awarded. No conversion is attempted. 
Value: 7 points
Reasoning: To discourage teams from illegally preventing a probable try from being scored while also saving time on the clock by negating the need for a conversion.

Law 19 Touch and Lineout
Add to definitions on page 117:
• A player who is attempting to bring the ball under control is deemed to be in possession of the ball. 
Reasoning: This brings into law something that is already applied in practice. It means that a player "juggling” the ball does not have to be in contact with it at the exact moment of touching the touchline or the ground beyond it for the ball to be deemed to be in touch. This makes it easier for the match officials to adjudicate.

Amend eighth definition on page 117:
• If a player jumps and knocks the ball back into the playing area (or if that player catches the ball and throws it back into the playing area) before landing in touch or touch-in-goal, play continues regardless of whether the ball reaches the plane of touch.
Reasoning: To simplify law and to increase ball-in-play time. 

Add to definitions on page 117:
• If the ball-carrier reaches the plane of touch but returns the ball to the playing area without first landing in touch, play continues.
Reasoning: To simplify law and to increase ball-in-play time. 

Add to sixth definition on page 117:
• In this case, if the ball has passed the plane of touch when it is caught, then the catcher is not deemed to have taken the ball into touch. If the ball has not passed the plane of touch when it is caught or picked up, then the catcher is deemed to have taken the ball into touch, regardless of whether the ball was in motion or stationary.
Reasoning: To simplify law and to increase ball-in-play time. 

These trials apply equally to 15s and rugby sevens.

In addition, the following trials were approved for law changes in sevens only:
• Finals should last no longer than seven minutes each half (rationale is player welfare – the evidence shows that a disproportionate number of injuries take place in the second half of finals. Injuries per minute are higher in the second half of finals as opposed to the first half and throughout normal matches of seven minutes each way.)
• Referee Video Referral (RVR) to be taken out of on-field referees' hands with the ultimate decision being taken by the TMO – often difficult to see the screen and make a call. The RVR protocol remains unchanged. The TMO will be one of the pool of tournament referees
• The restart kick must be taken within 30 seconds of a penalty kick or dropped goal being attempted where the kick is successful or goes dead.
• Teams must form a lineout within 15 seconds from the time the referee indicates the place where the throw-in will take place.
• Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 15 seconds from the time the referee indicates the mark of the scrum.
• A penalty or free-kick must be taken within 30 seconds of being awarded.