AS FANS put the final touches to their safari outfits, 12 captains and coaches taking part in the Marriott London Sevens at Twickenham this weekend launched the tournament at Barn Elms, Barnes.
Players and coaches attended a tag rugby festival for local primary schools and the Dallaglio Foundation as children had the opportunity to get their hands on the tournament trophy ahead of the final leg of this season’s HSBC Sevens World Series.
Last year’s weekend attendance of over 103, 000 confirmed London as the world’s largest two-day sevens tournament but ticket sales are on course to break this record, with 110, 000 fans expected over the weekend.
England, lying eighth in the standings, will face Fiji, Samoa and Argentina in Pool C on the opening day in the final leg of this season’s HSBC Sevens World Series, the overall title having been wrapped up by New Zealand in Glasgow last weekend. Skipper Rob Vickerman said: “It’s great to be heading into London on the back of our third-place finish in Glasgow and we’re confident we can carry that form into this weekend – there is no better place to do that than at Twickenham.
“It’s very special playing at the home of England Rugby, combining one of the world’s best XVs rugby stadiums with one of the best sevens rounds of the series. Everyone is really looking forward to playing in front of our friends and family, a potentially record-breaking crowd and a fantastic atmosphere.”
For the first time, the weekend will include a separate and crucial core-status qualifying tournament. Scotland will be fancied to grab one of the three places available but will be wary of their Sunday morning quarter-final against one of Spain, Portugal, Russia or Tonga. Only the two finalists and third-place winner from this tournament will be able to compete in all nine Series events next season.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The battle for core-team places in London is set to be fiercely contested with all eight teams hugely competitive, having won through from their regions and also booked places at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow. It is wonderful news for the fans as it guarantees even more quality and intensity at Twickenham.
“Going forward to our Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, it’s important that every nation can win core-team status if they are good enough. We’re confident that this system provides every nation competing in their regional tournament with a direct chance to compete on every round of the World Series, and so also ensures a transparent pathway to the Games.”
The weekend also features a Women’s Invitational Tournament. England face France, Spain and Australia on day one of an eight-team event and skipper Michaela Staniford said: “Twickenham is always a special experience and one that we take a hell of a lot of pride in. Last year the Women’s final was watched by one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and that is fantastic for the sport. The home support is very humbling and we want to make our supporters proud.”
Throughout the weekend, the West Car Park will welcome fans from across the world when it opens its doors to the Game Reserve. Open for all fans to enjoy, there will be live music, interviews with players, picnic areas and plenty to eat and drink.
Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting www.rfu.com/londonsevens. Weekend tickets cost from £45, individual days at £25 and kids £5 each day. See www.irbsevens.com for the match schedule.