Fiji, England look to be early favorites in weekend tournament
There is a major international tournament coming to Las Vegas this weekend that almost no one in this city is paying any attention to.
The International Rugby Board, world governing body for the sport of union-style rugby, will hold the fourth leg of the IRB Sevens World Series at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday and Sunday.
Sevens rugby is a seven-on-seven version of the game that plays two seven-minute halves. (How fitting is it that the Sevens tourney is in a city known for 7s on slot machines?)
For those of you who do not understand rugby, which I’m guessing is most of the American public, let me enlighten you with a short, three-step description of what is one of the most unique sports in the world:
According to legend, rugby was invented when a British private school student picked up the ball during a school soccer game and ran with it. (It’s only legend, but how cool is it that this story exists?)
In all honesty, rugby is basically a hybrid of soccer and football. Like football, you use your hands and can tackle, and it is like soccer in that the game never stops to set up plays.
Currently, the Rugby World Cup is billed as the world’s third most popular international championship (behind the FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympics). Sevens rugby will be an Olympic event in 2016.
Well that’s enough background, let me introduce you to some terms so you can sound cool:
Try: No, it’s not a term for effort. This is the equivalent of a touchdown in rugby. It’s worth five points, and the conversion is two points.
Scrum: After a foul, the ball is fed into a mass of players on both sides to determine possession. It looks most like when offensive and defensive linemen jockey for control during a play in football.
Knock-on: This is a foul called for fumbling the ball forward. (Note: Don’t mistake it with “knock-up” around rugby fans or you will get some weird looks. Trust me.)
Now that you understand the sport, let’s look at some of the teams who will be competing in the Sevens tournament this year:
Although they will be hosting this tournament, do not expect much from the American team. The USA finished in the bottom four of all three prior legs in the series.
New Zealand won the first two legs of the series and were eyeing wnother win as they hosted a third. The clean sweep was not meant to be, though, as Samoa upset them in the semifinals.
Still, the team who has won eight of the 10 Sevens World Series is not one to lose composure.
The winners of the New Zealand tournament look to keep their hot streak going here in Vegas and stay on pace to win their second Sevens World Series title. Fiji is regarded as the most successful sevens team of all time and are the only multi-time World Cup Sevens champions.
This team just recently became known as a contender again with their two tournament wins in the 2007 campaign, and they hope to gain their first win of the year this week. They are currently third in the Series standings.
The main contender from the Northern Hemisphere is also the only World Cup champion from above the equator. They have yet to go past the semifinals but are still sitting in the top four and are a mere two points from overtaking Samoa.
Other major contenders in this tournament will be Australia, South Africa, Kenya and Argentina.
My pick will be the Fijians to finally seize control of the lead in this series with a finals win over England.
Hopefully I’ve made fans out of some of you. See you at the stadium.