Monday, 8 February 2016

10 Observations from the Sydney Rugby 7s

I haven't really watched a lot of Rugby 7s. That's because at the end of the day I'm a sports snob. Test Cricket, 15-a-side Rugby and grand slam or David Cup tennis only. Throw in the Olympics so that I can enjoy becoming an expert at every obscure sport I'd never otherwise watch (hockey, luge, athletics, volleyball (not beach volleyball of course) water polo etc) and that's about it.

So when the Rugby 7s circus arrived in Sydney and pitched its tent at the Sydney Football Stadium then I was naturally reluctant to roll up even if I knew the clowns might amuse me in an awkward scary sort of way. But roll up I did. Here's 10 things I discovered...




1)  Forwards are to Rugby 7s as bowlers are to Twenty20 cricket. They're redundant
Image result for Rugby scrum
Not 7s. Not even close.
Twenty20 cricket is all about hitting 6s and and Rugby 7s is all about scoring tries. Even my six-year old son the next day, after watching a few matches on TV because Daddy was there, said it was too easy to score tries. If you like big fat blokes butting heads and pushing, 7s isn't for you. Nonetheless...



2) ... real Rugby does break out occassionally
Alas this tends to be only when the better teams play each other. There is a massive standard discrepancy between the top and bottom teams. All the bottom teams choose fit fast guys and look to score as many tries as possible. As a result they hold off in defence and are reactive, This just creates space and results in more tries being conceded. The better teams are structured in defence and attack, recognise the importance of dominating the midfield and are dynamic in their tackling, reducing the space of the attacking team. It's why New Zealand were all over Fiji for example. Australia even employed positional kicking to slow the ball game and use lineouts as an attacking ploy to defeat South Africa in the most technically interesting match of the tournament.

3) Without Fiji there is no Rugby 7s
Image result for fiji rugby supporter
Any Rugby 7s tournament anywhere
The heart and soul of 7s lives in Fiji. They were the first country to take it seriously, recognise its benefits and ingratiate into their Rugby ethos. Or maybe it was the other way round. Either way, possibly half the crowd were Fijian. Seriously, this must have been Sydney's entire Fijian population. Their flags and jerseys were everywhere and they received the biggest cheers. The good news. After Fiji were knocked out they supported Australia.




Image result for Tom Jones
Tom Jones - Rugby 7s all time favourite
4) The loud amd shit music
The incessant fucking loud MUSIC. OK, fair enough, between matches and even at half time we can sing and dance and generally act like idiots. But why does there need to be loud music at every break in play. Every scrum set, every lineout, every pause in the 'action'. For a sport that sells itself on its social off-field elements there's a lot you can't do when you can't here the bloke next to you. Not only that but the music was shit. Probably 95% of the music was over 20 years old. How is Rugby going to sell itself to the next generation when all the music is geared to my demographic (45+)? Classic hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Anyone under 20 would have concluded that Rugby is doing a timewarp again. Actually that's one song they didn't play.

5) The consolation crockery
Image result for crockery
Rugby 7 trophies on display
Is there any other sport where there's a trophy for coming 13th (Wales claiming the shield - not really a shield, for one thing it was made of glass - completely useless in battle), but nothing for coming 4th? Even 5th place and 9th place got something.  Argentina got the plate (not even of the 'I went to Sydney...' variety with the opera house and some wattle) and Canada scored the bowl (at least it was big enough for some fruit but would have been better if Samoa had won it - would have been a perfect kava bowl).



6) Mid-strength beer
Speaking of turn offs, the media spin might have you believe that the crowd was going mental but the reality was that it was vastly and mostly boringly well behaved and probably quiet though who would know what with all that shit old music. Blame that on the lack of full-strength beverages. And at almost $8 for a plastic cup (maximum 2 per person) of beer flavoured water I certainly didn't get drunk and foolish but I did get well hydrated and made lots of trips to the toilet.

7) What fancy dress?
Image result for speedy gonzales
Probably a 7s fan. Or a player.
Would certainly be Speedy enough!
Again, another example of media spin ignoring the reality. Sure there were popes and school girls and Trumps and air hostesses and minions and lego men. But they were massively outnumbered by the national team jerseys and sombreros which seems to be the accepted standard uniform of the 7s fan with a lack of imagination. Pretty much like any Rugby crowd. Except for the sombreros.

8) Is 7s a 'thing'?
Probably not. Sydney loves a bandwagon (Waratahs, Wanderers, Swans, Thunder - basically anyone who's winning) and a bit of hype. But credit where credit's due, the ARU nailed this tournament's media and marketing. But much like the A-league or the Swans or the Big Bash (just wait, you'll see) it only takes a couple of years for the gloss to wear off and the calls to start up for free to air coverage, cheaper tickets, marquee players, rule changes etc etc. Perhaps the trick is to move the tournament around and maybe that's what happening - Adelaide then Gold Coast then Sydney. Just wait Launceston - your turn will come.

9) Rugby's saviour?
Also probably not. The reality is that we found out how big Sydney's Rugby community is when 61,00 watched the Tahs win Super Rugby. 70,000 came to the 7s over two days and the reality is that the vast majority were already die-hard Rugby fans who had bought into the Hong Kong experience at home. It's very unlikely there'll be any impact on Waratah, Wallaby, Club Rugby or NRC crowds. If anything they'll be less after everyone wasted all their money on all that crap watery beer. If Rugby wants to increase in popularity it needs to cater more to the grass roots at suburban level to lock those kiddies in and worry less about the top end showpieces.

10) ?#$*^%! Kiwis

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