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Sevens breaks new ground

Mon, 01 Jul 2013 09:58
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We would have liked to have seen a few more people in the crowd
Quote-end

Poor attendances at the World Cup Sevens have not marred the greater impact that both Russia and world rugby will feel from the event, according to the IRB.

The three-day tournament won by New Zealand (in both men and women's competitions) was staged at the Luzhniki Stadium, the host of the 1980 Olympic Games the capacity of which is 79,000, reduced to 50,000 by advertising boardings.

But the high-octane action of the abbreviated game on the pitch was often watched by sparsely-filled stands.

Brett Gosper, chief executive officer of the International Rugby Board, said that searing temperatures, a massive thunderstorm on the final day and too-accessible tickets were to blame for some people staying away, but still claiming daily attendances of around 20,000.

"We came to Moscow to take the game to another part of the world, where the sport is developing strongly but still in its infancy, not in time, but a relative minnow," Gosper said.

"We're probably a touch disappointed, we would have liked to have seen a few more people in the crowd, but we've been pushing 20,000 a day for this stadium.

"We could have made a choice and put this in a smaller stadium and burst the seams of a 20,000-seater stadium, but in Russia doing it in this stadium sends out an enormous signal to the Russians that this is a sport that is really top level. It has an iconic value in that representation."

The Russian men sent the crowds wild with victory in the final of the men's bowl, the third-tier competition, running out convincing 29-5 winners over Japan.

They had previously beaten Spain 17-7 and Uruguay 38-0 to get there, having gone down to South Africa (31-0) and Scotland (21-5), and drawing with Japan (12-12), in pool play.

The Russian women also pulled off what was arguably the biggest shock of the tournament, edging England 17-15 in pool play. But they could not continue their fine pool-topping form and were eliminated by Canada in the Cup quarters.

"It is amazing for us to get some silverware on home soil, it is the first time such a rugby tournament took place in Moscow," said Russia's star men's player Vasily Artemyev, the Ireland-educated Northampton winger.

"I hope it is a sign of things to come as well and it is a great thing to be up there and to be greeted by your own fans.

"Hopefully we have done enough on day three to redeem ourselves in the eyes of our fans, show that we can play rugby. We are nearly there, we will be there soon and there are loads of us to come in the future."

Gosper said the Russian men's bowl performance and Moscow's hosting of the event were vastly significant.

"It's massive for them to be in the top 10 of the tournament," he beamed, adding that the tournament had been shown live on Russian television and was also beamed into an estimated 350 million homes in 170 countries.

"We're there with a lot of Olympic officials who are very positive about the experience of coming here. They know that we're trying to take the sport into new countries.

"With their experience in other sports, they know that's not an easy thing to do, fill a stadium in five minutes. Even the Sevens tournaments that have been around for a long time took a long time to fill their stadiums."

Gosper predicted sell-out crowds in Rio, saying: "Rio's an Olympic Games, it's a very different affair. It's an Olympic affect, we'll be in our own 20,000-seat purpose-built stadium, in a park with eight other sports.

"We're very confident that the Olympics will go very well and there's no reason to believe that we're not going to be playing in front of full crowds in Rio."

SAPA

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