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The worst-kept secret in rugby is out – Las Vegas will be home to the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, thanks to some collaboration between World Rugby, USA Rugby and United World Sports, the parent company of USA Sevens (and Rugby Today).
This won’t be the first time an international women’s component has been a part of the Vegas experience. For many years there has been an elite division of the Las Vegas Invitational featuring some official and unofficial national teams from all over the globe, even preceding the start of the official women’s circuit.
The bulk of those games were played on ancillary fields with the rest of the LVI, though championship rounds have been played inside Sam Boyd Stadium during breaks in the men’s World Series for years running. Now that Vegas is an official stop, the entire women's competition will be played in the stadium.
While USA Sevens is a three-day event for the men, the women’s tournament will play out over two days, like the rest of the women’s stops. Pool play will kick off Friday morning and conclude mid-afternoon before a brief break ahead of the men’s action. Saturday, the women’s knockout rounds commence in the morning, stretching into the afternoon.
For fans wanting to catch both the men’s and women’s tournaments, an extra ticket won’t be necessary. A Friday ticket will be good for both tournaments, as will a Saturday ticket. A three-day ticket will cover all the action, too.
Portions of the men’s tournament are broadcast live and in tape delay on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, but it’s not anticipated that the women’s tournament will be, as TheRugbyChannel.tv has picked up the rights in America for the entire women’s tour. Even when it was run solely by USA Rugby in Houston or Atlanta, it was never on domestic television, so no change there.
Nonetheless, the development of the women’s and men’s tournaments aligning on American soil is a homerun by any measure. Most obviously, it’s best for the fans. For the price of one international 7s tournament, they now get two. Why see just a handful of Olympians in Danny Barrett, Folau Niua, Madison Hughes, etc., when you can see Alev Kelter, Ryan Carlyle and Lauren Doyle, too?
For the players, the atmosphere in Vegas will be better than at any other stop. Dubai is the only other tournament which folds men’s and women’s tournaments together, and there the women play much of their competition on a side field.
Last year, they played in empty stadiums in Brazil and Atlanta, and in half-filled venues much smaller than Sam Boyd in France and Canada. When the women crown their champion in Las Vegas, if history is any indication, there will be upwards 36,000 people in the stands.
All in all, the women’s tournament is an exciting addition to what is already the most exciting weekend of the year for rugby fans.