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Sixteen women’s and 24 men’s captains lined up side-by-side on Wednesday in front of San Francisco’s iconic Bay Bridge ahead of the highly anticipated Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.
More than 95,000 fans are expected to attend across three days of high-octane rugby sevens action at AT&T Park, which this week has been transformed from its traditional baseball diamond format into a spectacular venue for rugby sevens.
Over 30 hours of coverage from RWC Sevens will be presented across NBC channels and the USA captains will be aiming to inspire the home crowd with their performances.
Madison Hughes, USA men's captain, said: "Having the opportunity to play in the marquee sevens event here in the US is just so exciting. Hopefully we can do well, put in a good performance so those new to rugby can get really excited about it."
USA women's captain Nicole Heavirland commented: "Super exciting and very important for the growth of the game to host a World Cup on home soil, it's huge to have an event like this in front a US crowd."
Reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens champions in both the men’s and women’s events New Zealand will be looking to retain their crowns.
Sarah Goss, New Zealand women's captain, said: “Winning the last Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow 2013 was a pretty special moment, we were all extremely inexperienced. It was incredible to take a Rugby World Cup home and a sevens title that we’d never won before. It’s definitely going to give us extra motivation to do the same again here in San Francisco. It’s going to be extremely tough, with the knock-out format and the high quality of teams it’s going to be extremely challenging but I have full confidence in the girls and the way we’ve been performing over the last few months and we’re just really excited to start playing on Friday. We’re extremely hungry to defend our title and take another rugby world cup sevens home to New Zealand.”
New Zealand men's co-captain Scott Curry added: “It’s awesome to be here in San Francisco. To be playing at AT&T Park in a baseball stadium is pretty unique and I’m sure the atmosphere is going to be electric. We’ve had a good week building up to the competition, we’ve trained really well and we’re looking forward to the weekend. It’s going to be a tough ask to defend our title, as it’s a knock-out format we’ll be focusing on one game at a time.”
South Africa and Australia will enter the men’s and women’s competitions respectively in good form after claiming the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series titles last month.
South Africa captain Philip Snyman commented: “Everybody is focusing on the Rugby World Cup Sevens, it’s an interesting new format with knock-out stages from the start meaning you have to be at your best from the get go and get out of the blocks as quickly as possible. Where the world series was a marathon, this is more like a 100-metre sprint. We can take a lot of confidence from our performance in Paris and we’ve had a boost with a couple of players returning from injury so we’re really happy with where the squad is at the moment. Playing in San Francisco is a dream come true and playing in a baseball stadium is really interesting. Rugby is growing fast in America and we’re looking forward to a wonderful weekend of sevens.”
Australia co-captain Sharni Williams said “We’ve got a bit of confidence coming off the back of getting the series win under our belt in Paris. It’s great to know that a big crowd is going to walk through the turnstiles here in San Francisco. To have a Rugby World Cup in America is absolutely unreal because although they’re not a huge rugby nation they’ve really jumped on board and World Rugby has done an amazing job turning a baseball stadium into a rugby pitch.”
With rugby sevens a proven driver of fan growth, and the recently-concluded men’s and women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series attracting more than 100 million video views, San Francisco 2018 will be the most content-focused, digital-first global rugby event of the year.
A new and innovative ‘knock-out’ style format will see every match count, meaning teams will have to win every match to be crowned World Cup winners.
The action gets underway at 10:00 local time on Friday with Fiji taking on Spain in the women’s competition. The men’s tournament also kicks off on day one with Kenya facing Tonga in the first game of the preliminary round at 13:01 local time.
SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS
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