7 things to look out for at Rugby Sevens in Vancouver this weekend

Mar 6 2019, 11:35 pm

The fourth edition of the Canada Sevens, Vancouver’s annual weekend in the rugby sun, is almost upon us.

As attendees of the first three tournaments will already know, the rapid fire, game after game after game format, along with a party-first-concentrate-on-the-intricacies-of-the-play-second crowd creates perhaps the liveliest atmosphere of any Vancouver sporting occasion.

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With that in mind, whether you’re heading to BC Place or watching the highlights on television, here are seven things to try to bear in mind.

1. The basics

Image: Canada Sevens

If this will be your first rugby experience, what have you been doing with your life up to this point?

Once you’ve assessed your existence, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals of the sport. A game of Rugby Sevens has seven players per side (there’s a clue somewhere in the sport’s name) and is contested over two halves of seven minutes each.

A try (the equivalent of a touchdown) is worth five points, with a conversion worth an extra two. There are also penalty kicks and drop goals, each worth three points, although these are rarely seen in Sevens.

Forward passes and fumbles that spill forward result in game resets (scrums), a player that is tackled is obliged to release the ball and both teams must attack these breakdown situations from the direction of their own try line to avoid being offside.

Don’t worry. It’ll all become clear(ish) after a couple of games.

2. Dress to impress

Although Rugby Sevens is relatively new to Canada, its roots stretch way back.

The game was conceived as an end-of-season get-together for clubs in and around the Scottish border town of Melrose back in 1883. Ever since, the little brother of the 15-a-side game has been an excuse for a party.

The good time spirit took a giant stumble towards organized chaos with the birth and success of the Hong Kong Sevens. This annual excuse for British and Antipodean expats to drink their corner of Asia dry spawned a new tradition of dressing in costume that continues to this day.

If you are thinking about attending in character, remember that the Group Stages on Saturday is when your creativity will be appreciated. Fans tend to focus their attention to what’s happening on the pitch once the knockout rounds begin on Sunday.

3. World party

Image: Canada Sevens

One of the greatest pleasures of attending the Canada Sevens is that not all the seats are assigned.

This flexible seating plan (along with the likely need to make repeated visits to the bar and the bathroom) gives spectators the chance to form new friendships as they bounce from section to section. In the multicultural oasis of Vancouver, you’ll find fans of teams from around the world.

Start conversations, talk rugby (Fijians in particular will tell you everything you need to know about Sevens) and treat your time in the stands as the social occasion it was created to be.

Even though Canadians are instinctively appalled by any displays of perceived rudeness, you may encounter bursts of banter, an essential a part of rugby culture. Allow England’s James Haskell, AKA Bantersaurus Rex, to explain…

One thing that will unite everyone is that they’ll be cheering for the home team, which leads us onto…

4. Oh, Canada

It’s been two years since Canada’s surprising run in Singapore, which saw them earn their lone World Rugby Sevens Series tournament victory.

Team Canada’s form has been less than inspiring in the five tournaments in this season’s Sevens World Series, despite Connor Braid’s star turn in last weekend’s contest in Las Vegas.

The team’s best result so far this season was an unremarkable seventh place in New Zealand.

A tough group draw alongside Fiji, Samoa and Kenya will make qualification for the Cup quarterfinals challenging (although not impossible).

5. American horror story

In the event that Canada struggles the crowd should still unite behind whoever is playing our beloved neighbours to the South. Team USA have been in red-hot form this season, even without injured star player Perry Baker.

They’ve reached the Cup Final in every tournament this season and left Las Vegas as overall winners. Keep an eye out for speedster Carlin Isles, who boasts an eye-watering personal best of 10.13 seconds over 100 metres.

6. Eyes on the future

Image: Rugby Canada

Sevens is traditionally a great breeding ground for rugby talent, which means you never know which players hitting the turf in Vancouver will go onto global stardom in the 15-a-side game.

Plenty of recent Blitzboks, including Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, and Ruhan Nel, are now plying their trade for South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises, but the history of sevens competitors turning into superstars goes way back.

Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson were teammates on a World Champion Sevens squad in 1993 a decade before they became legends as two of England’s World Cup winners of 2003.

Even they don’t compare to the School of Sevens’ most celebrated graduate. Rugby’s most recognizable face, the immortal Jonah Lomu, first rose to international prominence with a series of spine-busting performances at the Hong Kong Sevens.

7. Star power

You never know who’ll drop by to catch a few matches.

Last year the crowd was graced by an appearance by Aussie-turned-Norse God Chris Hemsworth. No promises, but there’s already rumour that a certain actor famed for his Dothraki and ocean-based superhero roles will paying BC Place a visit to compare muscles with the players…

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