Castle says sevens success can be boon for 15-man game

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle believes the code must capitalise on the increasing success of sevens when it comes to luring new fans - females, in particular - to other versions of the sport.

Castle, who began her new job as the boss of Australian rugby last Monday, has been a spectator at the Sydney Sevens over the opening two days in what is her first appearance at a major tournament since she took the reins.

The former Bulldogs boss has a major job ahead of her to rebuild the code after a difficult 2017, when rugby was plagued by off-field drama in relation to the axing of the Western Force from Super Rugby.

Castle has spent her days in the job meeting as many people as she can within the code and plans to travel to every state in a bid to develop relationships with relevant stakeholders.

Rugby has been struggling for popularity in the 15-man game for a number of years, with Super Rugby crowds dwindling.

However, there has been a steady interest in the sevens format, with a strong crowd turning out for day two at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.

Speaking to ABC Grandstand, Castle said Rugby Australia had to work hard off the back of sevens success to encourage traditionally non-rugby people to become fans in other variations of the code.

"It is [about], how do you attract new people to your game, [and] sevens is the perfect opportunity for that," Castle said. "We've opened up a market of female fans that now want to watch our young women play sevens, so those fans will evolve.

"Those women that are playing sevens right across our country now will also more than likely turn the TV on and watch the Wallabies and that wasn't something we had as an option 36 months ago."

In years gone by, rugby has struggled with an image problem that it is played and watched only by people from private schools.

Castle, like her predecessor Bill Pulver, agreed that was on her priority list to fix.

"We want to make sure we strengthen those GPS schools," Castle said. "But we also have to make sure in bush footy or country rugby union they continue to see they've got options to grow their talents and have their talent identified and so they too can move to these Super teams and the Wallabies.

"There is an amazing rugby community that isn't from that environment and that's who are delivering athletes into our Super [Rugby] teams and Wallabies."

This story Castle says sevens success can be boon for 15-man game first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.