As the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series arrives in Houston, Texas, this week, the Game has never been so competitive or exciting, says the International Rugby Board’s Head of Competitions and Performance Mark Egan.
Speaking in Houston as the teams arrive for the second round of the series, Egan was quick to point to the benefits of bringing the tournament Stateside.
He said: "We're really excited about Houston. We're bringing a women's event to what is the fastest-growing market for women's Rugby in the world – and probably rugby in general. It's a wonderful stadium, used to hosting Major League Soccer with capacity for 20,000.”
With the action set to start on Friday, the 12 squads are putting the final touches to their preparations.
"This is the inaugural season of the Women’s Series and the first round in Dubai showed us just what a competitive and exciting sport it is now,” added Egan.
“The standard of Rugby was exceptional in the first round. We saw just how good New Zealand are as they lifted the trophy there. Also, we saw in Dubai that Russia were very competitive, South Africa getting to the final was a bit of a surprise but it just shows you the work that's going on in several places around the world.”
“Spain, Netherlands, England, China, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, USA, Australia and many others are all showing impressive signs. The bar is being raised all the time and that is set to continue as we're seeing huge investment now from the National Olympic Committees around the world."
“We've had really positive feedback from the people in Houston with regard to interest in event. NBC will broadcast some of the second day and a highlights show will go out on the first day so there’s no doubt it will grow into an exciting event for us and for the series.”
Everything this year builds towards the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow so the women’s teams are using the Houston Sevens as another stepping stone towards that tournament, which takes place in the Russian capital from 28-30 June.
"One of the reasons we've established the Women's series and that we're investing about US$1.5million this year is that the women's teams needed a higher level of competition in the build-up to the RWC Sevens, and we wanted it to be as competitive as it could be.”
"Overall, Sevens is getting huge interest from broadcasters, media and also internet. I think we have, in terms of our online output, interest from around 200 countries. The series is being broadcast and the reach it's growing all the time which is great!"
Following a dramatic and successful start to the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Dubai late last year, round two takes place this Friday and Saturday with Rugby fans from all over the States gearing up for some top-class action in Houston.
With just five months to go before RWC Sevens 2013, the world’s elite female Sevens players continue their campaign with 12 teams vying to impress in front of what will surely be a typically partisan American crowd.
Victorious in Dubai, New Zealand lead the standings but South Africa, Australia and Spain are hot on their heels.
Houston marks round two of the series, which is set to take place in a total of four global destinations this season (the others being Guangzhou, China, and Amsterdam, Netherlands), underscoring the IRB's commitment to the ongoing growth and development of women's Rugby around the world. As the series is bound to grow over coming seasons, it is another significant step in the journey towards the sport’s readmission to the Olympic Games programme in Rio de Janeiro 2016.
The IRB Women’s Sevens World Series concept is in line with key strategic objectives set out in the IRB Women’s Rugby Plan, expanding the Women’s Sevens international competition model, particularly at the elite level of the Game.
IRB Women’s Sevens World Series
Round 1 - UAE: Dubai, 30 November-1 December 2012 - 7he Sevens (winners: New Zealand)
Round 2 – USA: Houston, Texas, 1-2 February 2013 - BBVA Compass Stadium
Round 3 – China: Guangzhou, 30-31 March 2013 - Guangzhou University Town Stadium
Round 4 – Netherlands: Amsterdam, 17-18 May 2013 - NRCA Stadium
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