by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
The Hong Kong Sevens has always been the ‘gold standard’ of international rugby sevens events, and despite challenges from the likes of Dubai, Wellington and even Las Vegas this year, there’s a magic about the Hong kong Sevens that makes it a special event and will undoubtedly keep it at the forefront of the sevens game for years to come, other events just don’t come close!
For the men, this weekends new format raised the bar once again, the top 12 core teams played in their own event, whilst the others fought for the right to join them on the circuit next year. Three new core teams will be added next year bringing each event to 15 core teams plus a local regional qualifier, 16 teams. Next year when we arrive at Hong Kong, the top 12 ranked teams will once again play in the main event, teams ranked 13-15 will play in the qualifier. Promotion and relegation, raising the stakes and raising the bar.
The women’s circuit is less advanced at this stage, but its taking shape slowly, this year Dubai, Hong Kong and London will make up the women’s circuit, the women’s team being awarded the Challenge Cup which is played for at the next event. Canada handed the Cup to England in Hong Kong, the Eagles made the semi final, and will have a chance to get their hands on the Cup in London in May.
This weekend, both men’s and women’s teams got a reality check, the men have been through some changes recently, but apart from the Wales game appeared to make progress and play a style of rugby more appropriate to their skill sets, it was also encouraging to see Rocco Mauer in action for the first time on the circuit, he’s going to be good!
The women’s event was a step up from Las Vegas for both the USA and Canadian women, with the inclusion of Australia and England, the competition was always going to be tough. Also competing were teams that may not be traditional rugby powers, but are being funded heavily by their respective governments – Spain and the Netherlands are a part of that changing landscape.
A semi-final appearance for the women was positive, but the 30 point gap between Australia, England and the rest will need to be closed if we are going to seriously challenge for World Cup and Olympic honors in the future. Coach Ric Suggitt emailed with his thoughts directly after the event, he’s already working on the next steps for the program.
The men now head to Tokyo, Coach Alex Magleby is settling into his new role, an event next weekend is just what they need to maintain momentum that started to build yesterday with a win over Scotland and a close Bowl Final game against Kenya. Their pool next week includes New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong,
Off the field, it was obviously the usual party, and it was great to see the message above on the in stadium big screen – one of our goals at USA Rugby is to connect our young players with our Eagles teams, young players need role models and stars they can follow and emulate, Illinois Youth certainly made that connection this weekend – well done!
Thanks also to the USA fans who are increasing in number with every event, not just at the stadiums, but on their computers late at night following the teams and giving them fantastic support thru our social media channels, at USA Rugby. I know the teams really appreciate your support, thank you.
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
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