May 19, 2013
Rugby sevens is a great show
By Frankie Deges
With a capacity for 89,000 spectators, the International Rugby Board has gambled big by taking its sixth Rugby World Cup Sevens to the Luznicki Stadium from June 28th-30th. Rugby sevens is a great show and the party atmosphere is very important.
For the uninitiated, sevens rugby was born in 1883 in the Scottish Borders town of Melrose. With the need to generate extra funding for his club, butcher apprentice Ned Haig came up with the idea of multi-team tournament played on a single day. He reduced to seven the number of players per team, two halves of seven minutes and the same pitch. This was the birth of the fast version of our game.
The first sevens tournament outside of the British Isles was held in Argentina by the Buenos Aires Football Club (today BA Cricket & Rugby Club) in 1921. It is still played at the end of each domestic season, now under the umbrella of the Unión de Rugby de Buenos Aires.
In 1981, a national representative team first played in the already established Hong Kong International Sevens. Their positive experience in the then Colony led to what is still the Seven de la República, the closing act of rugby each year, when every province meets in Paraná, in a tournament organized by the Unión Argentina de Rugby.
For the first time in 1995, in partnership with the Punta del Este Sevens, international teams came to our country; this was two years after the first Rugby World Cup Sevens playing in 1993 in a bitterly cold Edinburgh.
Argentina had the pleasure and honour of organizing its own Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2001 when, again, Mar del Plata hosted 24 national teams. It was a massive party at the Mundialista Stadium. Los Pumas Sevens helped; they lost in semifinals against New Zealand that had an inspired Jonah Lomu in their team.
The 2002 crisis meant that would be the last time Argentina had a home tournament in an IRB World Sevens Series that had started in 1999 and of which Argentina is a regular participant. In over 110 tournaments, they’ve only missed three — not invited to Dubai in 1999 and two were missed due to the SARS outbreak early last decade.
Los Pumas Sevens won two tournaments in the series: Los Angeles in 2004 and five years later in San Diego, both in the US West Coast. A few weeks later, in Dubai, Argentina had an incredible tournament, only losing in the final against Wales. That lost opportunity was hard to swallow, but five players went on to play test rugby for Argentina.
So, this season brings the World Cup Sevens in Moscow. The Argentine Women’s VII have a golden opportunity to qualify at the South American Championship in Rio de Janeiro next month. Prior to that, they will taste their first real international competition in Houston. South America is dominated by Brazil, who is in line to take the regional berth in RWC 7s for a second consecutive World Cup.
With Rugby Sevens now an Olympic sport from 2016, it is no longer the poor version of rugby. So, in a World Cup year, we must keep an eye open on what Argentine teams can produce.