Teams playing in the fifth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series have been welcomed by thousands of fans in the entertainment capital.
The 16 competing nations at the HSBC USA Sevens were given a truly Las Vegas welcome this evening as tens of thousands of fans showed their support for the teams ahead of a bumper weekend of rugby.
Held in the historic part of Las Vegas along Fremont Street, the hour-long ‘Parade of Nations’ gave both passionate and new fans a chance to get close to the stars of the sevens. The events celebration of rugby, its values and culture, and the city of Las Vegas provided the perfect tournament opener with the competing teams walking the celebratory red carpet through the crowd, before taking to the stage to thank fans and look ahead to the USA Sevens.
Las Vegas is set to host crowds of over 50,000 at the Sam Boyd Stadium between the 2-4 March where the teams will be looking to secure valuable points which will help them climb the series table and improve their Rugby World Cup Sevens seedings ahead of San Francisco in July.
The tournament has been swept up by both South Africa and Fiji in recent years winning the last five between them, so teams will be looking to end their usual stronghold.
Top-of-the-table Springbok player Branco du Preez returns to the scene of happy memories in Las Vegas. Du Preez played in his 50th tournament for the Blitzboks at the Sam Boyd Stadium last year as well as claiming victory for South Africa.
“This is one of my favourite tournaments, no doubt the crowds really get behind you and it’s an awesome venue to play in,” said Du Preez.
“I like the fact that the pitch is slightly smaller and play a bit more direct. We have done well in the past and I am determined to contribute to another successful effort and just enjoy the rugby. We are focusing on ourselves and taking it game by game and we really appreciate the support we get here and want to thank the South African fans and everyone in Vegas for making us so welcome.”
Fiji, on the back on their win in Hamilton – their first in New Zealand since 2010 – will be eager to build on last year’s runners-up position in Las Vegas. Speaking at the Parade of Nations, Fijian captain Jerry Tuwai said Las Vegas was a very special tournament for the team.
“For me and the squad it is always exciting to come to Vegas because there is such a great Fijian community who come out from all over the States to support us so it is special for us – it’s a Fijian family away from home,” he said. “For us our aim is to focus on Russia in our opening game. We have a lot of new boys in the squad and so the New Zealand Sevens gave us a big boost and we are excited for this weekend’s tournament.”
Las Vegas Pools
Pool A: Fiji, Kenya, France, Russia
Pool B: South Africa, England, Canada, Wales
Pool C: Australia, Samoa, USA, Spain
Pool D: New Zealand, Scotland, Argentina, Uruguay
With thanks to World Rugby