When people think of Las Vegas they think of high rollers, world famous shows, Caesar’s Palace and the MGM Grand. It is fair to say Vegas is not best known for its rugby. I have witnessed a number of quizzical expressions this week when we’ve tried to explain that we are a rugby team. One man, adorned head to toe in the colours of his college football team, took us for gymnasts. This makes a change from the usual guess, ‘Are you guys soccer players?’ – always a knock to the ego for the bigger lads!
However, whilst the USA leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series isn’t what puts this place on the map, the crowds at the tournament have increased year on year in line with the growing interest and following of Sevens in America. It promises to be another exciting weekend as more people come to get a taste of the fastest growing sport in the US.
One thing the States is not lacking is enthusiasm for its sport and its athletes. Walking around Vegas there is a warm welcome at every turn and people eager to know our story. Those who have watched a bit of rugby tend to think we’re like American Football players, only foolish enough not to wear the pads.
Sevens teams must, above all, be adaptable. Each venue comes with its own quirks and challenges and Sin City is no different. To try and maintain a high degree of discipline and professionalism in an environment specifically designed to draw out depravity and recklessness is not a simple task. For eight days our primary focus is succeeding in an international tournament. This is only true for the travelling circus of the IRB teams, everybody else is here to gamble, drink and seemingly wake us up in the middle of the night!
But we are here to enjoy it as well. Driving down the strip in the team bus at night, neon lights illuminating the shoulder-to-shoulder hotels, everyone soaks up this extraordinary place. We even managed to turn a few heads as we turned the music up and everyone sang along at full volume to ‘Gas Pedal’.
Our first-class management team has a new recruit this tournament. Dan Howells joins England Sevens as Strength and Conditioning coach and has had an immediate impact. The players are now benefiting from a more detailed and professional approach to our training and wellbeing and Dan has also started whipping the rest of the management team into shape. Dan Cooper, our analyst, had enough on his plate launching our new state of the art Sevens App without having to spend a couple of hours a day working up a sweat in the gym. We’re eagerly awaiting the management ‘bench-off’ to see Dan and Dan go head to head for the crown.
Three days of international competition commences on Friday as we face Samoa in what many people are staging as a revenge match following our lacklustre performance against them in Port Elizabeth. All the boys are desperate for a good result this weekend.
Fourteen teams will stake everything they have over the three days in pursuit of the title. As we near the mid point of the season, gaining maximum points becomes more and more important. Time to roll the dice…
Read Tom Mitchell’s interview about England Sevens’ goals in Las Vegas here.
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