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When France hosted the 2007 Men’s Rugby World Cup, the streets of Paris were lined with colorful posters and banners advertising the tournament. For the new Paris 7s starting tonight, Friday, there are no posters, and not a word mentioned in Le Figaro, the popular newspaper about the event.
The weekend of rugby began for me last night (Thursday) at an informal reception hosted by the French Rugby Federation (FFR) at a small rugby bar (Le Bistro d’Ovalie) near the Gare Montparnasse. Assembled here were some referees for the tournament, members of the FFR media team, including my contact Gilles Mege, and other rugby-centric guests, including the South African Woman’s liaison to the FFR. She expressed sad regret that her union did not expend the funs to send the Women’s side to Rio. The Lady Springboks’ place taken by Kenya, the second place African side.
At these global gatherings, the conversations are a mix of the linga Franca of the home nation (France) and always English. I encountered an Australian woman from Perth who had visited the Hong Kong 7s twice, seen four games at last autumn’s RWC in England, and had also lived and worked in New Jersey. She shared news of Samoa rugby encountering financial difficulties, a reason she posited for the country’s fall from sevens success. She cited the fact that Samoa does not even have an MRI machine for its players.
Mege was philosophical about the attendance anticipated for the Paris 7s, returning here after a ten-year absence. The estimate for tonight is 10,000, and he believes that will rise for Saturday and Sunday but no sell out of the 25,000 Stade Jean Bouin is expected. It is evident that past terrorist activity had tamped down tourism in Paris, and the Paris 7s will suffer as a result.
I pick up my tickets from World Rugby at a hotel in the southern outskirts of the city at the Porte Versailles. Two teams embark on the 20-mile bus trip to practice at Marcoussis, home of the FFR and the men’s and women’s national team. At 7 p.m. this evening, its kick off for the Paris 7s,