World Sevens heads to Sydney as ARU confirms commitment to sport
by Sam Ryan –
Australia’s leg of the World Rugby Sevens series will be played at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium for the next two years in a huge boost for the short form of the game in Australia.
After a number of disappointing years on the Gold Coast, the move is expected to the popular within rugby circles.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring Rugby Sevens to Sydney. We truly believe that Sydney has the potential to match the excitement surrounding tournaments like Hong Kong, Twickenham and Wellington in terms of event experience and crowd numbers,” ARU CEO Bill Pulver said.
“There is little doubt the area in and around Moore Park lends itself to Rugby Sevens.”
The announcement comes just a day after the ARU’s General Manager of Pathways and Performance, Ben Whitaker, confirmed the governing bodies commitment to the sport.
“We are investing more and more into the game at a national team level with an eye on becoming one of the best teams in the world in both the men’s and the women’s (competitions),” Whitaker told Rugby News.
“But we are also investing right through to the grassroots, we are launching a new non contact version of the game called Viva Sevens… It’s about providing access to the game and Sevens provides a vehicle for that.”
The ARU hosted both the Junior and Senior National Sevens Championships at Narrabeen over the past fortnight, with all states and territories represented.
“The women have had this National Championship for the last few years and the national team have really benefited enormously off the back of that.”
Australian Director of Rugby Sevens Geraint John was a keen observer of both tournaments and was impressed by the amount of talent on show.
“Last week really did excite me. Seeing those 17/18 year-olds playing and showing their skills was exceptional. The key thing now is to keep those players involved,” the coach said.
Whilst John is eager to attract and retain talent to his program, he says Sevens can also help develop players for the 15-a-side game.
“We’ll always look at the core skills, the catch and pass, run, tackle, decision making, the contact area and obviously their conditioning will play a big part. I actually think that helps them to become better rugby players.”
“Our goal has to be to make them better (rugby) players and better people on and off the field. That’s only going to help all the programs.”
Both Whitaker and John are confident the inclusion of Sevens Rugby at the 2016 Olympics will help boost the sport internationally, particularly with countries like China and Russia showing increased interest.
“It’s a little scary to think what will happen if they do commit their resources, with the depth they have got, they could be really effective in Sevens,” Whitaker said.
John believes Sevens could be rugby’s equivalent to Twenty20 cricket.
“I think it’s going that way. When you look at the World Series, It’s not just about the players, it’s about the crowd and how much fun they are having,” John said.
“If we can showcase the game and get families watching, then we will get youngsters wanting to play Sevens. I think after the Olympics, it’s going to grow even further.”