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Beth Coulter runs the HSBC Sevens World Series for the International Rugby Board.
She is in Hong Kong and Wellington, where tickets sell out in minutes. She is in Las Vegas, where the game is making a huge leap into the American consciousness. She is in London and Edinburgh, in massive stadiums.
And she was in Guadalajara in a stadium that seated barely over 1,000 fans, watching the Pan-Am Games. And she was smiling.
“I think the rugby on the pitch said it all,” Coulter told RUGBYMag.com. “Two fantastic medal competitions. The USA v. Uruguay game was fantastic and the final … I was hoping for extra time because I didn’t want it to end. With the rugby we’ve seen in the last two days what the Olympics can do. To win a medal is what every team wanted to do and you see the improvement.”
Every team that was at the Pan-Am Games save Brazil has also played at the USA 7s tournament. USA is the host, and Argentina is a core team. Canada has been a core team at times. But Canada and all the others have played at the USA 7s because they were invited, in part to help develop rugby in the region. The one team that hasn’t been to that tournament, Brazil, will be in 2012.
All, said Coulter, have improved.
“Look at Mexico. They did incredible well. Hopefully it’s going to be a legacy here and they will grow more,” she said.
The fans were vocal, and stayed through to the end. They gave a rousing standing ovation to Mauricio Rios, the most experienced Mexican rugby player of all time, who played his final match for his country on Sunday. Well over 2,000 fans came for the two days of competition. For a country where soccer is not only king but the entire court, that’s impressive support.
“I came here in March and there was nothing here, just dirt,” said Coulter. “What has happened in the last few months has been incredible. I never doubted them, but we did wonder. Now we’ve been able to show people just how exciting Rugby 7s is, and we will develop these teams and ensure that they will be able to compete and have more tournaments.”