Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
After what seemed like a very long wait, the pools and match schedule have been announced for the 2011 USA Sevens, the fourth event in this year’s HSBC Sevens World Series, to be played in Las Vegas on February 12-13th. The delay in announcement for the pools was, in part, because of an altered schedule to give NBC the best opportunity to reach American viewers.
As current World Series leaders, England head Pool A as top seeds and kick off an exciting schedule of matches, altered from the norm to maximize the exposure afforded by the USA event’s first ever live national network TV broadcast coverage, on NBC. In a interesting turn of events, Cup Quarterfinalists will have to dig deep as all four Cup quarterfinals will be played at the end of day one, February 12th. The change of schedule allows the Cup final in Las Vegas to be broadcast live on NBC throughout the USA on February 13th.
Team USA faces a tough task in their pool as they take on defending USA 7’s champ Samoa, South Africa, and Japan.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to showcase, live to the American public, the thrilling action of Sevens Rugby. The sport is incredibly popular internationally and we look forward to continuing our partnership with USA Sevens and the IRB to grow Rugby here in the US,” said Jon Miller, Executive Vice President of NBC Sports, which will also broadcast Rugby World Cup later this year for the first time.
USA Sevens Tournament Director Dan Lyle added: “Four years ago, USA Sevens set out to attain mainstream legitimacy and exposure in the context of American sport, and this exciting new partnership with NBC reflects the hard work achieved to realize this opportunity.”
“Working with our event partners NBC Sports, the IRB, USA Rugby and some fantastic new sponsors, we look forward to presenting the 2011 tournament to the largest US audience ever to have watched our great sport,” said Lyle.
In addition to the four Cup quarter final ties being played at the end of a lengthened day one, the four trophy finals are also rearranged at the end of day two. In order for the Cup final to coincide with prime time across the East Coast of America, the showpiece match will be played before the three other finals at 14:15 local time.
“The fact that Rugby Sevens is going to be on NBC, the first ever time that the sport will be live on national network television across the States, is extremely exciting for the development of the game. Interest in Rugby has grown tremendously in the USA since Rugby Sevens was voted into the Olympic Games and this can only help consolidate that growth,” said IRB Chief Executive, Mike Miller.
“This unprecedented platform means that we have the opportunity to attract millions of people who wouldn’t normally see the sport through an internationally-renowned sports broadcaster. We’re sure that when they see it on NBC, Americans will be hooked on the highly competitive, fast-paced nature of Rugby Sevens.”
Top seeds England won the first event of the season in Dubai and on day one at the USA Sevens they face Argentina, France and Caribbean qualifiers Guyana in Pool A.
Eight-time World Series winners New Zealand won the second event in George, South Africa and line up as second seeds in Pool B with opening matches against Wales, Kenya and South American qualifiers, Uruguay.
Samoa and Fiji currently lie in third and fourth position respectively in the World Series standings. Fiji face Australia, Scotland and Canada in Pool C, while defending USA Sevens champions Samoa face a mouth-watering tie against hosts USA as well as South Africa and Japan in Pool D.
After the first two events in Dubai and South Africa, England lead the HSBC Sevens World Series with 44 points. New Zealand are second (40), Samoa third (36), Fiji fourth (32) and South Africa fifth (24). The USA (6) is currently in 9th place in the standings.
The third leg of the World Series will be played in Wellington, New Zealand on February 4-5th, after which the teams will travel on to Las Vegas for the USA Sevens.