IRB Sevens- San Diego is ready to shine
Around these parts in the USA sport is like sand on a beach, it is everywhere and in everything. Baseball, basketball are American football are the big 3, driving around immaculate sports grounds pop up amongst the concrete and little kids right through to big kids are out there playing the game. Over the past 4 years rugby 7s as they call it has come to town and in a big way. The San Diego 7s is played in a massive stadium and is embraced by big crowds and this coming weekend will be the4 biggest yet for the land of the eagles.
The Oceania teams have a few challenges this weekend. The biggest test will be for the mighty NZ side, last year they won 7 events in a row & Mr Forbes was the spearhead in that. Leading from the front he has extreme grunt and his troops follow him anywhere he leads. The other main man for NZ is Tomasi Cama, he can side step, he can convert tries, but his greatest weapon is mopping up in cover defence behind the impressive Kiwi team. Just as teams look to have broken through NZ along he comes and usually saves the day. Well this weekend NZ will be without both these key men and this will for sure put them under the microscope. They have depth, but surely these too will be missed.
Samoa had a dreadful weekend in Wellington, they too have changes, but one injection is a world class striking machine in Uale Mai. He drives this team and with him around Samoa will again be potent.
The locals are excited and we will leave you with their 10 reasons for tuning onto the sevens this weekend.
1. PETCO Park
This fourth round of the IRB Sevens World Series, the USA Sevens in San Diego, is the only international rugby event ever to be played in a major league baseball stadium - Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
This magnificent 46,000-seater, open-air venue was opened in 2004 at a cost of $456.8 million. It is right in the heart of downtown San Diego and a two-day crowd of well over 50,000 is expected to attend over the two days for the thrilling rugby and the excellent Fan Festival that the event is also destined to become well known for.
2. Is this the breakthrough?
For the first time the USA Sevens will be shown throughout the country on terrestrial domestic television with a one-hour 'Special' on ABC on the evening of 22nd February.
In a country where rugby still comes a distant second in the popularity stakes to the 'American' sports of gridiron, baseball and basketball, this is a very big deal.
The programme will bring rugby to over 110,000,000 households throughout the United States, giving it the kind of coverage that it has never enjoyed before.
3. Beware the Eagles..
The success of Al Caravelli's USA Sevens team in making the Cup quarter finals in the last two tournaments in George and Wellington, reflects the significant growth in the popularity of the game in America, and the quality of rugby they're playing.
The former advance can be measured by the increase in the numbers playing the game:
For Men: from 24,996 in 1999 to 47,110 in 2005, to 60,476 in 2008
For Women: from 6,104 in 1999, to 17,278 in 2005, to 20,127 in 2008
The latter advance reflects the amount of work that he and his side are putting in and in captain Chris Wyles they possess one of the Series' 'most valuable players'.
4. All bets are off!
Never has an IRB Sevens World Series been more wide open and a tournament outcome less predictable. And small wonder... Last weekend in Wellington for the first time ever not one single team won all three games in the pool rounds on day one and, with England the eventual winners losing to Argentina, USA beating Fiji, Kenya beating South Africa, and Wales beating New Zealand, who can guess what's in store this time?
It's all warming up nicely for the most competitive Rugby World Cup Sevens of all time in Dubai in early March, when 16 women's teams will also be playing for a first ever time and, if you are in San Diego this weekend, you can also see the likes of England, Canada, USA, Japan and China playing in the women's competition, the final of which will be played at the PETCO Park between men's matches.
5. Winner out of a hat!
Interestingly, the last five World Series Cup titles have been won by four different countries - and that doesn't include Fiji the reigning world champions, whose last title was in Adelaide 2007!
What is more, in theory any one of five nations could find themselves leading the overall table standings at the end of this tournament: South Africa, England, New Zealand, Argentina or Fiji
6. New names scoring all the tries
It's strange to see that no Cup-winning team provides a player amongst the three top try-scorers of the season so far.
Out in front at the moment are Kenya's Collins Injera and Aussie Luke Morahan each on 14 tries, followed by the USA's outstanding skipper Chris Wyles on 13.
7. A warm welcome to America
San Diego has welcomed the world of rugby with open arms. The city lies at the southern-most end of the coast of California, almost at the border with Mexico in a region of Mediterranean-style climate.
With a multi-ethnic population of 1.3 million, it is the seventh largest city in the States and the second largest in California behind LA.
Migrating grey whales pass close in to the shore, with miles of great surfing beaches the length of the coastline.
The city is best known as the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, with the largest concentration of naval facilities and ships of anywhere in the world, including the giant aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan. It's even home to of the Marine Corps, including the Air Station at Miramar where 'Top Gun' was filmed!