Sevens rugby: All Blacks Sevens eye Oceania 'bubble' tournament

All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw is hoping to set up an Oceania tournament following the cancellation of the World Series due to COVID-19. 

On Tuesday night, both the All Blacks and Black Ferns Sevens sides were awarded their titles, after sitting atop their respective tables when the World Series was suspended in March. 

Laidlaw believes the proposed trans-Tasman and Pacific Island bubble will allow much-needed game time in the buildup to next year's Olympics in Tokyo.

"It's certainly in our thinking," Laidlaw tells Newshub.

"We've got teams like Australia, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga on our doorstep that potentially later in the year, or the start of next year, we could get some live international rugby against.

"A lot of stuff is out of our control around COVID-19, but it's probably as good a place as any in the world to start thinking like that."

The 2020/21 season-opening tournaments in Cape Town and Dubai in December are still scheduled to go ahead, but Laidlaw has already begun talks with the neighbouring nations on the prospect of a mini-tournament later this year. 

"That'd be exciting. If we can't get the World Series up and running, we get an Oceania type tournament or a couple of teams minimum.

"We feel that with those teams and ourselves, the level of competition is very high… it's not a bad place to have to prepare heading into next year."

"We've reached out to some of these teams already to play at the back end of this year."

Laidlaw wants to see his squad playing as much Mitre 10 Cup rugby as possible to remain in match condition, before the new season begins. Those who don't play in the domestic provincial competition will return earlier for a pre-season that begins in August.

Currently in quarantine in Auckland himself after returning from the UK, Laidlaw admits he was by no means surprised to hear of the season's cancellation.

While he admits that winning the title in such a fashion is "bittersweet", he's still ___ with the improvement his side has shown through the truncated season.

"It was always going to be difficult in the short term. We knew over the last few weeks it was looking likely. 

"It's been a tough year for everybody and sometimes rugby has taken a backseat. But we're still extremely happy and proud of the way the team played with the consistency we've been striving for for the last couple of years.

"It's a little bit of a strange feeling to do it the way that we did but no less proud of the team and the way we played."