Rugby World Cup ’15 Clipped by NFL?

According to this story from the Daily Mail, Wembley Stadium’s obligations to the National Football League have forced Rugby World Cup 2015 organizers to schedule only two RWC matches in the fabled stadium, instead of the eight matches that were originally planned for Wembley.

As the article states, that reduction in matches (along with a decision by Manchester United that Old Trafford was not to be used in the Rugby World Cup – because, you know, actual men playing on their pitch might tear it up a little bit and these primped and pampered soccer players might have to actually show some athleticism on the field, but I digress) left the Rugby World Cup organizing team scrambling to locate adequate stadia to hold the various matches. This also means that RWC 2015 ticket prices will probably be raised to hit the expected 80-million pounds that England had to guarantee to the International Rugby Board.

(Soon we’ll take a look at the sham that is the schedule of matches for Rugby World Cup 2015, and how the IRB screwed North America and Eastern Europe yet again. So much for wanting parity between rugby nations, and for encouraging “rugby growth” in North America. As usual, the IRB says one thing and does something completely opposite, in order to protect its monopoly on the game.)

Can Kenya Continue USA Sevens Momentum?

Kenya continued to impress at the USA Sevens, which has become their tournament almost as much as it has been for USA Rugby. After what can only be described as a lackluster start to their HSBC World Sevens Series campaign, Collins Injera led the Kenyans to victories over Wales (22-14) and Argentina (21-7) in Las Vegas to win the USA Sevens Plate championship.

Lumped into the same pool at #1 New Zealand and #2 Fiji in the season kickoff Australia Sevens, the Kenyans went 1-2 in the first day, racking up a win against Niue before losing to Tonga and Japan in the second day.

The Kenyans’ woes continued the following week in Dubai, going winless for the first day, including a surprising 21-5 loss to Zimbabwe. They rallied the second day with a 35-5 win against the UAE in the Shield semifinals before losing to Samoa to end their day.

The South Africa Sevens and New Zealand Sevens were not much kinder to Kenya, where they lost to Zimbabwe in the South African Sevens Shield Finals before beating Australia 12-7 in Wellington’s Shield Finals.

The New Zealand Sevens marked the start of Kenya’s upward swing, as they carried the momentum from their Shield win in Wellington to move one level up the competition in Las Vegas with a Plate victory.

The Kenyans have usually stepped up their game when playing in the USA Sevens, whether they are able to feed off of the energy of their fan base in the USA (they are usually a crowd favorite in Vegas) or they begin to gel as a team about that time.  Now the next question is, will they be able to carry that momentum on to the Hong Kong Sevens in late March?

USA Sevens Announces Largest Attendance Yet!

According to the IRB and USA Sevens, over 64,000 rugby fans visited UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium over the three days of the tournament and over 30,000 attended the second day of games – making it the largest rugby crowd ever in North America.

Tournament Director Dan Lyle said

We have quite a lot of people from the southern hemisphere in the stands but it’s Las Vegas and that lends itself to the international party that we promote and adding the element of high class sporting fun it is really exciting to be in the middle of a growth element and proving some points that the sport is on the rise.

With the facilities offered by an NCAA Division I university like UNLV, and the unique entertainment opportunities in Las Vegas, Nev. (as opposed to that hotbed of night life, Las Vegas, N.M.) the USA Sevens has a chance to continue the stellar growth it has achieved since moving to Las Vegas and eventually become one of the top two venues in the HSBC Sevens World Series, second only to the iconic Hong Kong Sevens.

With almost half of the tournament’s visitors attending on Saturday, I wonder if the tourney would be better served moving from a three-day schedule (much like the Hong Kong Sevens) to a two-day tournament to serve as many visitors as possible without taxing their resources.  Some of the matches broadcast on NBC had fairly empty looking stadiums, not a criticism but I’m just wondering if moving the tournament to two days will help keep more fans in the stands.

One of the great things that the team at the USA Sevens have been able to secure is broadcast time on NBC and NBC Sports for the last couple of years. This, along with coverage of the collegiate sevens championship, is presenting rugby in a form that many U.S. sporting fans can quickly understand.

IRB Announces Hong Kong Pools–Does USA No Favors

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union recently announced the pools for the Hong Kong Sevens, the next leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. Long considered the premier event in the Sevens World Series Calendar, the Hong Kong Sevens has long hosted 24 teams, in six pools of four, as opposed to the four pools of four that every other tournament has. This gives exposure to more nations which might have been passed over for the other tournaments, such as this year’s entrants Spain, the Philippines, Russia, Portugal, China and others.

(You can find the full listings of HK Sevens pools here)

The United States finds itself in Pool B, facing off with Sevens World Series leader New Zealand, last year’s USA Sevens champions (and sitting in third place in this year’s standings) South Africa and plucky U.K. representative #8 ranked Wales. While the U.S. went winless the first day of the USA Sevens tournament, the Eagles were able to score a nice win against France before being eliminated by the Aussies in the Bowl semifinals. Will the USA be able to carry their form against France through to the Hong Kong Sevens?

Another SuperSite favorite, Kenya, might be able to find a better result in the Far East. Facing USA Sevens champions Samoa, as well as England and Argentina in Pool A. While each of these teams are ranked above Kenya, the Kenyans have been able to pull out many close matches against top talent in recent years (remember their back and forth match with the All Blacks at the 2011 USA Sevens). Plus with stars like Collins Injere coming back from injury to the team, the Kenyans have the potential to pull an upset on at least Argentina, and possibly Samoa.

One of the problems for the US, and other smaller rugby nations, in the USA Sevens might have been the quick turnaround between the New Zealand Sevens and the event in Las Vegas – less than a week to return to the States, shake off the jetlag of 16+ hours in the air and return to form. Now the teams in the World Sevens Series have over a month and a half before they have to return to the pitch at the Hong Kong Sevens, giving them plenty of time to recover and prepare.

NOTE: The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the world’s most storied and popular sevens tournaments, starting in 1976 after a discussion between the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and an executive from the Rothmans’ Tobacco company. The inaugural Hong Kong Sevens tournament hosted national teams from throughout the Asia-Pacific Rim, as well as representative teams from Australia and New Zealand.

For decades since the inaugural Hong Kong Sevens, the tournament became THE event to follow if you were a Sevens Rugby fan, especially for the excited and rambunctious fans, who are often worth the price of entry alone. It can also be argued (and I often do) that the popularity of the Hong Kong Sevens, along with a select few other Sevens Tournaments (Scotland’s Border Sevens among them) for fostering the eventual creation of the IRB Sevens World Cup and the current Sevens World Series.

IRB Opens Sevens Series to “Entire World” … Or Does It?

The International Rugby Board had decided to open up the Sevens World Series to all nations in a qualifying tournament at the Hong Kong Sevens. According to the International Rugby Board:

Three teams will advance from a dedicated 12-team regional qualifier finale, securing coveted core team status and joining the current core teams…

Which would increase the number of teams participating in each leg of the Sevens World Series from 12 to 15.

I hate to play the part of the wet blanket on the IRB, but I have to ask –

Continue reading “IRB Opens Sevens Series to “Entire World” … Or Does It?”

All Blacks Wins NZ Sevens – What Does Fate Hold for Las Vegas?

The New Zealand All Blacks once again reigned supreme in Wellington at last weekend’s New Zealand stage of the IRB Sevens World Series. Aptly called the “Hertz Sevens,” for title sponsor the Hertz Car Rental Company, the All Blacks dished out plenty of ass kickings all around in Wellington – going undefeated in pool play and sweeping their way through the championship bracket en route to their tournament victory. With the win the All Blacks broke their tie with runners-up Fiji at the top of the Sevens World Series standings.

Team USA hit the wall in Wellington, going 0-for-the tournament. After a promising 21-0 loss to USA Sevens Tourney champs South Africa, the Eagles lost to England and finally to the Cook Islands (26-22) in their last match of the first day. The second day Eagles fans were witness to defeats to Wales and Scotland to knock them completely out of the tournament.

And the Kenyans, looking to recover from their first day 1-3 showing (with a victory over Australia) put Wales and Scotland to the sword before handing Australia their second loss in two days with a 12-7 win in the Wellington Bowl Finals.

Now the eyes of the Rugby World turn to the United States, for this weekend’s USA Sevens in Las Vegas.

There are several questions that need to be asked and answered by the time the USA Sevens ends this weekend. Can the All Blacks hold on to their tight series lead over Fiji and England? Can the Islanders rally this weekend in Vegas? And what about defending USA Sevens champions South Africa, can they repeat as champions? And what about Kenya? The Kenyans and their fans always delight the crowd in Las Vegas!

And, of course, how will the teams recover from a grueling weekend of Sevens in New Zealand, a 14-16 hour flight, and preparation in the Nevada desert in less than a week?  These questions and more will be answered this weekend! If you don’t have Universal Sports, or the NBC Sports Network, formerly known as the “Versus” network, you can catch the latest updates at universalsports.com or usarugby.org!

Bonus Points at the World Cup? Really?? #rugbyworldcup

OK, please allow me to get this off of my chest.

Do we really need to have bonus points in Rugby World Cup pool play?

Really?

It’s really that important for you that your team (should you be lucky enough to be a fan of one of the Rugby Universe Power Teams) rack up 50 or so points on their opposition?

We all know what this is. It’s another subtle way for the Rugby Powers That Be to keep a lock on advancing to the quarterfinals and beyond at the RWC. I just finished checking out the South Africa v. Fiji match, where the Springboks, in classy fashion, dropped a 49-3 win over the Islanders. We all know the Springboks are one of the powers in this year’s world cup – as the defending champs it’s expected of them. Do we really need to be giving them, or the All Blacks or England, additional points for running up the score?

What if, just follow me here, what if one of the minnow teams beat one of the Rugby Powers at the World Cup in a close game, and then were kept out of advancing to the next stage because other teams in the World Cup gained bonus points by running the score up? That would be, for lack of a better word – bullshit.

Yes, the Rugby Powers that Be are the top teams in the world – we all know that. There’s no need to give them extra points because they are able to run up the score.  There just isn’t.

IRB Fumbles the Ball for Updated World Cup Hosting

According to the New Zealand Herald and (possibly, reports are kind of sketchy since the “official” remains unnamed) the International Rugby Board (IRB), the city of Auckland in Kiwiland might be selected over, well most of the rest of the country, to host more matches for the upcoming 2011 Rugby World Cup.

These additional matches come at the expense of the rebuilding Christchurch, which SuperSite fans, and anyone who takes the time to read the news in the last month or so, know took a serous amount of damage from a recent earthquake.

Instead of spreading the games around to attract travelers to other New Zealand venues, as well as show the Rugby Universe that the rest of the nation could pull together to help the potentially overtaxed Christchurch, the IRB short-sightedly decided to dump all of the games on Auckland.

Continue reading “IRB Fumbles the Ball for Updated World Cup Hosting”