Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
23 March 2016
In many ways it took the city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada to set several new standards for hosting and staging tournaments of the HSBC World Sevens series. Read on...
The players of the 16 competing international sevens rugby teams, and we of the following media, who had travelled up to Canada from the previous week’s activities at the 2016 Las Vegas sevens found a very warm welcome from the local officials of Vancouver. They were very excited about staging a sevens tour event for the first time.
Of course we kinda knew their welcome would be warm; Canadians are like that aren’t they? And we weren’t even put off from enjoying their new tournament by the local weather which was raining and pretty awful for the full week we were in town.
That’s because the first of the two key matters which will now mark the Canada tournament as distinct from every other in the event’s 16-season history were; 1) that the two days of action (45 games) was held on a flat even but full-sized artificial playing surface. That meant there was no excuse for sluggish play. Indeed the evenness of surface encouraged speedy, dynamic action which thrilled the crowds throughout.
The second exclusive factor was the superb BC Place stadium itself. It has a closed-roof design which has not been seen on any sevens tour tournament before. The locals had closed its roof days in advance of the playing action. That meant any outside elements were therefore shut out completely. That encouraged the crowds to come, umbrellas not required. In fact on day one so many fans turned up at the same time that there was early congestion at a number of the entry points. A nice problem to have I would have thought!
To be absolutely correct the artificial field was not exactly unique to the Vancouver event as part of the HSBC World Sevens Series. The previous week in Las Vegas the field there, in place at Sam Boyd Stadium had been synthetic too, but it had been widened from a previous American Football width of 59-metres so therefore was still not quite that of a full-sized rugby union field.
Canada’s conditions provided just that – the roof above was the bonus which made it unique, quite the best ever on the tour.
Speaking modestly I am one of the few who should know; I was there in Dubai in 1999 when the IRB sevens circuit made its tentative touring start. In about 110 stops which I have made since then the playing conditions for the sevens in Vancouver have never been bettered. I have to say it but new standards have been set.
To the point now where suddenly it might feel very strange for the best 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams when they set out in stern Olympic competition in Rio in August. Current photographs show that hard-working crews are in Rio trying to meet deadlines for constructing the simplest of fields set on the outskirts of town with marquees and temporary stands being manoeuvred into place. We are told teams might change to play in giant impermanent structures.
It will be at the very least a great contrast between the standards set in Vancouver and rugby’s newest and grandest showpiece event – the Olympic Games.
So bravo Canada!
Marty Berry came on v Australia at Eden Park in a losing Bledisloe Cup game for just 18 seconds. But his other midweek games for the ABs spread over 7 seasons.
Toulouse, Saracens, Gloucester, Auckland and France
72 internationals for France 1994-2007
A powerful, worldly member of the French forward pack through the late years of the 1990s and into the new millennium. At his best there was none who could better this hard-scrummaging prop forward and strong runner about the field. Which is ironic because he began his rugby as an overweight charger with little finesse. It was only after joining the Toulouse club that he fined down into a top rated forward who caught his national selector’s eye.
The thing about Califano is that while he was anchoring his club to three successive French club championship titles as a loosehead prop he was making his early presence as an international player as a tighthead. He had made his debut in France’s epic victories in New Zealand in 1994 when he played as part of a French front row against New Zealand’s redoubtable trio of Sean Fitzpatrick, Richard Loe and Craig Dowd.
Later Califano switched to his preferred loosehead as his test career blossomed and it was from that position that he went to South Africa in 1995 for the Rugby World Cup. He was also in the French team in 1999’s cup though by then back problems and the rise of new young French ‘bulls’ in the front row halted consistent progress.
After 1999 he traveled to New Zealand and had two seasons in Auckland playing in the Super 12 series.
His ability as a running, handling prop forward was never better exemplified than in 1996 when he scored three tries in one game against Romania. Has any test prop anywhere in the world bettered this? I doubt it.
In 2003 his career seemed over but he was recalled for several more games in 2007.
Which prominent All Black back didn't play a test till after his 30th birthday?