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The past weekend’s USA Sevens in Las Vegas represented the ninth tournament for United World Sports LLC (UWS), the owner and operator of the event. One of the leading reasons why the tournament moved from San Diego to Las Vegas six years’ ago, occurred on the Monday after the third San Diego event ended on Sunday; southern California experienced a torrential, all day downpour. Clearly, UWS could not continue to risk staging the tournament the first week in February under those unpredictable climate conditions. It was time to find another city and move. Exit San Diego; enter Las Vegas.

What follows is a short diary of some happenings from the event. Each one also features a photograph.

Diary 2015

Parade of Nations, Downtown – Main picture-  (Thursday night)

The “Fremont Street Experience” brought fans and teams together in the Parade of Nations where each squad was introduced to the large crowd. The nations appeared alphabetically waving their country flags, saluting the throng of people, and taking selfies with the camera stick.

Team Appearances, Samoa – (Thursday night)

Samoa added a buff, washboard ab warrior with a battle ax, blowing a ceremonial conch. His performance was overshadowed by a Japanese player who danced a hip-hop routine to the delight of the crowd.

Nate Ebner, New England Patriot’s Safety (Thursday night)

Former gridiron walkon Ohio State grad, and professional footballer, Nate Ebner gave a warm speech about his rugby experience. Ebner had been an outstanding U-19 rugger who played football for the Buckeyes, and went on to stardom with the Patriots. All wondered that if professional rugby existed in the US (with comparable salaries), would the Nate Ebners in the US have opted to play rugby after graduation? Tournament Director, Dan Lyle introduced the Super Bowl standout.

Monte Carlo Hotel Store (All weekend)

The teams and UWS staff returned again to the Monet Carlo Hotel. In honor of the USA Sevens, the hotel expanded its in house sale of rugby merchandise. At the end of each of the annual nine tournaments, the teams rate their experience on the field and off. Las Vegas receives the second highest food rating (Thanks to Monte Carlo and its dining room staff). Dubai is voted the top food event where mounds of Scottish salmon greet the teams in the morning.

Sam Boyd Stadium (Saturday) Early in the morning, the crowd (as seen from the owner’s suite) looked like it was going to set a USA Sevens and Las Vegas record. Again, ex-Pats from Kenya, Fiji, and Samoa filled the stands. But this year, more rooters than before attended from South Africa and New Zealand. Colorful costumes also were on the rise, including odd but inventive stars and stripes configurations. Kudos to the quartet that came as the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy and her three memorable movie companions.

The Air Force Fly Over (Saturday)

After the singing of the national anthem, two magnificent F15-D planes from Nellis Air Force base flew over the stadium. The surprise fly over electrified the crowd, already pumped up by the Eagles tying South Africa 19-19, and, importantly, advancing to the Cup round to face Canada.

Rugby Super Store (Three-day event)

The Rugby Super Store made its second appearance, and proved a success. More rugby merchandise was sold during the three-days than in any other rugby event in the US. UWS featured its new Rhino rugby line of balls, team wear, fan wear, and equipment, embarking on establishing this well known worldwide brand. Look online (USASevens.com) next week on the Sevens Store for post-event discounts on Rhino items and other USA Sevens clothing.

Fan Festival (Saturday and Sunday)

The Fan Festival highlights foreign food vendors and other national booths, selling native products, especially, the Samoans. This year, smartly, a large outdoor television screen captured the action inside the stadium. No shopper or diner had to miss any of the rugby action. The screen marked another in a series of small tournament imrprovements, which added measurably to the hospitality for the fans.

This year’s USA Sevens event – broadcast again by NBC Sports - set a new record for attendance, aided by sunshine and mid 70’s temperature. The ancillary Las Vegas Invitational (LVI) attracted a new high total of high school, college, club and international sides. The media, fans, and rugby pros all concurred this event achieved the highest professional sports standard. And it was lots of fun!