Rugby Sevens played at either end of the Globe; focus on Tokyo Games

Rugby Sevens played at either end of the Globe

There are Rugby Sevens games being played at either end of the globe, with tournaments in Dubai, Florida, and planned for in Wellington, New Zealand.

Each will entertain fans bereft of the sport, with all similarly thirsting for more global competition. All with a focus on the impending Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games [which are still planned for, but without International spectators] it means any and all competition is necessary.

Rugby sevens will be represented for the second time this century, with the men’s and women’s tournaments highly anticipated. And with this concentration, every qualified nation is refining their training programs to suit, with others using tournaments like the Emirates Invitational Dubai Sevens as official practice.

In non-competing countries, internal combines and opposed training matches are mixed with sessions by player’s who are still competing in XVs competition. The GB7s groups have been assembled for training camps, following those of the Aussie7s, NZ7s, and Fiji men.

It is a key stage for both men’s and women’s teams. Preparations, as well as competing against similar teams or internal competition.

Rugby Sevens played on either side of the Globe

Continuing the World Rugby sponsored series that began in Madrid, the Emirates Invitational Dubai Sevens was played across Easter weekend. The famous Sevens Stadium again rocked to the sound of men and women sprinting up and down the green grass fields.

That will have continued the development for sides including, the Canadian women and, Argentinian men. These two teams took out their respective competition, on their way to holding up the Dubai 7s Cup(s). Quite possibly the best preparation for each, as nothing beats the advantage of sustained match-time.

The variety of teams include other sides like, the men’s French team (who finished second). As well as Kenya, Chile, Japan, Spain, Canada, Uganda and the United States women, Japan, Kenya, France, and Brazil. That is a total of eight men’s and six women’s teams who will leave Dubai with more performance data on players, systems, and potential opposition for Tokyo. And while not every side was confirmed of a place at the Olympic tournament, each will take many learnings on board for their next competitive outing.

Across the Atlantic ocean, sunny Orlando hosted the Tropical 7s event. An International youth rugby sevens tournament. It no less saw many the stars of tomorrow shine in matches, as well as combined training sessions and modules for players and coaches.

These events have been dubbed the ‘rugby re-boot’ since many teams have been dormant due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Tournaments like this are pathways for college and University age player’s to develop the abilities and behaviours that might see some graduate into semi or fully professional sides in the States, North America and across the globe. Delivering opportunities for scouts to see a wide range of young men and women who have the ambition to make the 2024 Olympics their big goal.

With rugby sevens played by many junior and age-grade players, including the success of the US Eagles 7s sides, the game is healthy stateside. In the Caribean, in South America, the ongoing positive images from Rio have carried on the trend. Up in Canada, aside from the change in the women’s team coaching group, that region is extremely strong.

Southern hemisphere rugby sevens sides ready for Tokyo

With the likes of Team Great Britain and some continental teams readying for final qualification towards this year’s Olympic Games, the Southern hemisphere sides are not far behind in preparations.

While still guided by health guidelines amid Covid-19 limitations, training has not been interrupted for periods long enough that it has allowed a good conditioning baseline. Known as a highly anaerobic sport, rugby sevens require sustained energy levels for seven to ten-minute halves (10 mins only in a Final) so, the Yo-Yo tests and laps are used alongside specific skills sessions,

The sport has gone from continuously adapting to space, now more defined defensive systems and pre-prepared counter-attack tactics are well established today. Mind you, set pieces are also essential for the likes of World Champions New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and other Island nation teams.

With the need to have more internal competition until travel is more widely used by World Series teams, targeted weekends of inter-squad matches are inclusive of invited Pacific sides. With many of the Samoan and Tongan players still residing in New Zealand, the NZR has organized another two days of fixtures for next weekend. The Takiwhitu Tūturu tournament.

This will feature eight teams playing across April 9-10 at Hataitai Park, in Wellington. The men’s division sees two All Blacks Sevens teams, Tonga Invitational and Samoa Invitational while two Black Ferns Sevens teams will go up against a Black Ferns (XVs) selection and the Moana Pasifika women.

All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens play before Super Rugby clash

In a new model, the weekend culminates with the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens playing exhibition fixtures at Sky Stadium either side of the Hurricanes v Crusaders match. So potentially, they can express themselves in front of thousands of rugby fans [live, and on broadcast television].

Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee said the club was looking forward to what will be an amazing day at Sky Stadium. “We are delighted to host the Black Ferns Sevens and All Blacks Sevens on 11 April.  It will be a memorable afternoon with Hurricanes v Crusaders kicking off at 3.35pm and also some high-quality sevens games featuring our best male and female players.

“They’re are all amazing athletes and I highly recommend that our members and fans check it out.”

This is the second competition window in the build-up to the Olympics, with the previous tournament played in Mt Maunganui in February.

Across the Tasman, the Aussie 7s men and women are doing very much the same. Competing in opposed matches, as well as inviting composite teams of Pacifica and University sides to face them. Rugby Australia has also scheduled the AON Uni 7s Series, to continue the development of players for the future. All this focus on Sevens is in aid of being prepared for the scheduled World Rugby Sevens Series, beginning for the leading women’s nations in May.

Meanwhile, the Olympic champion Fijian men have completed their Super Sevens Series, and will have gained much-needed conditioning and team bonding for the Tokyo Games. The Fijian women have also been focusing on being ready for increased competition, as they have already qualified for the Olympics, as Oceania champions.

So as fans witness rugby sevens played at either end of the globe, the awareness that a July/August timeline for the Tokyo tournament will gain traction. Even without their own traveling fanbase, the ever-enthusiastic Japanese fans will embrace every one of the 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams, as their own.

From June 19-20, the final Qualification repechage tournament is being hosted by Monaco, to confirm the final competing nations.


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