USA and Canada continue to make giant strides on the HSBC World Sevens Series and target Dubai 7s as they take on one another once again on the highest stage
Dubai: In a part of the world where even football — the most popular sport on the planet — struggles to get a look in, rugby is always going to be pushing uphill in the battle to be noticed in North America.
Sure, one oval ball game is massive — but it’s football of the American kind that dominates the sports supplements. And with basketball, baseball and ice hockey taking up their share of column inches, the rest fight for the little remaining space.
Yet rugby is doing okay in both Canada and the USA. And in the sevens format both have squads of ambitious intent and are putting measures in place to support that — for men and women.
The Olympic Games in 2016 has a potentially huge impact for both countries in terms of progress and profile. Canadian Rugby has already signalled its Olympic intent, with a programme already in place to support both squads in their build-up to the Rio Games.
Canada’s performances at the IRB Sevens World Cup in June reinforced the optimism. The women went all the way to the final before they slipped up against New Zealand, while the men — captained by Nathan Hirayama, who finished third in last season’s HSBC Sevens World Series points-scoring table with 241 — also lost their only match to New Zealand. It meant they narrowly missed out on a place in the quarter-finals, but made up for that disappointment by winning the Plate.
So both squads will arrive in Dubai in a good frame of mind. Last year they were runners-up in their respective Plate finals at the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, but recent form says they will each have the Cup titles in their sights this year.
The USA women will also be upbeat going into the new season, having finished an impressive third at the World Cup, losing only to eventual winners New Zealand. Look out for Kimber Rozier — the poster girl of USA women’s sevens. But she is much more than just a pretty face. A former football and basketball player who started playing sevens in 2007, Rozier is a rising star of the sport and the USA women will be contenders for the Cup at The Sevens stadium here.
The same probably cannot yet be said of the men in the HSBC Sevens World Series, but they did reach five out of the nine Cup quarter-final stages last season. And they have a fresh start this time under new player-coach Matt Hawkins, who has a great record as a player in sevens and will be wanting to repeat that in his new role.
The Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens takes place from November 28-30, with 16 nations competing in the HSBC World Series tournament and 12 in the IRB Women’s World Series. Log on to www.dubairugby7s.com