With restrictions lifting, the ‘Red Bull Ignite7’ tournament for women and men kickstarted the Summer of Sevens which should entertain fans of the shortened game over the New Year seasonal timeline.
New Zealand’s leading women’s players joined the men in massing in Mount Maunganui, to restart the stalled sevens season. Halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) used the two-day tournament to identify new talent and to bring contracted player’s into camp prior to the Christmas break.
The four sides on each half of the draw were named Bolt, Inferno, Power, and Surge. Each captain helped select their group of ‘draft players’ who prepared across last week, before a two-day tournament at Blake Park was scheduled over Saturday and Sunday.
💥 ANNOUNCEMENT // Red Bull Ignite7 is BACK & it's going to be better than ever!
— All Blacks Sevens (@AllBlacks7s) October 2, 2020
Summer of Sevens begins: Red Bull Ignite7 tournament
The results (in a way) were secondary to the fact that players had been able to compete on the national stage officially for the first time since the pandemic ended both group’s 2020 campaigns. The women and the men each challenged for supremacy over two days, with the BOLT men’s team triumphant over team Power.
🏆 Red Bull Ignite7 2020 champs. Congrats lads. pic.twitter.com/XCBZeYpAUA
— All Blacks Sevens (@AllBlacks7s) December 6, 2020
Skipper Tim Mikkelson confirmed his authority in the men’s group but for head coach Clark Laidlaw, the experimentation and new talent exposed in this year’s Red Bull Ignite7 competition is critical. After more than 12 years with the sevens squad, new players will be required to replace Mikkelson in the next few years.
The same thought will be considered by women’s coach, Alan Bunting. He and co-coach Corey Sweeney brought in a balance of established stars, to match-up to new names like Kalyn Takitimu-Cook (see main picture). She is only just one name with the potential to step into the shoes of the star players like Ruby Tui – she captained women’s team BOLT to rise from last on Day One, to go unbeaten on Day Two and claim the 2020 Red Bull Ignite7 title.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) December 6, 2020
Takitimu-Cook participated in her second Ignite7 tournament, but with so many of the HSBC Sevens Series winning women included, it would have been a fabulous experience. This applies to the men too. Young men will have all benefitted from working as a team with guys like Sione Molia, and Regan Ware will be invaluable to their improvement in the sevens program.
NZR High-Performance Sevens manager Tony Philp said the prospect of reimagining sevens in such a unique event was exciting for all involved. “The opportunity to evolve the Red Bull Ignite7 concept to include our contracted players alongside the next generation of stars is new for us. The proposition of senior players being charged with picking their teams means we have something completely different on our hands.
“The other element of this which is also really exciting is it will grow our leaders as they will have to think about how to build an environment as their team prepares to perform.
No matter whether your team won or lost, for names like Takitimu-Cook, or Brady Rush, or Dan Simkinson, the opportunity to impress will have been memorable.
This will be the first sevens tournament for the World Series-winning All Black Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens since the beginning of 2020 and kickstarts the playing schedule in the lead up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The teams are hopeful for some Oceania based tournaments at the start of 2021 before the World Series is re-instated.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images