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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!
A 48 test veteran Jerry Collins tragically died in a car crash in Southern France aged only 34.
A term given to the rugby world by Argentina. Bajada (also known as bajadita) is the name given to the style of pushing in a scrum where the hooker keeps his feet back and the scrum pushes forward using the thrust of all eight men. While that in itself was not a new technique, Argentine teams, at both club and national level, shocked the rugby world with secret variations of the eight-man shove in the early 1970s.
The results were often astounding. South African players and officials were perhaps the first outsiders to feel the power of bajada when the Buenos Aires club, San Isidro, took the technique to South Africa in 1973. The locals there were shocked to find their teams, with all of South Africa’s history of powerful scrummaging, frequently pushed into a backslide.
Recent law changes have tended to deflate the power of the scrum, but the legacy of powerful scrimmaging remains with Argentine rugby today. The term ‘bajada’ (meaning ‘downhill’) deserves to be remembered.
In which New Zealand Rugby Province was the Ranfurly Shield resident for the longest duration of time?
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