Moscow welcomes world's Sevens stars

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 26 June 2013  
 
 Moscow welcomes world's Sevens stars
The captains of all 40 teams in front of the iconic St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square. Photo: IRB/Martin Seras Lima

The captains of the 40 teams, 24 men's and 16 women's, due to compete at the sixth Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow this weekend have come together today to launch the tournament at the iconic Red Square.

In all 28 nations were represented as the captains braved fierce heat and humidity ahead of what promises to be a highly-competitive event, and the last World Cup for Sevens before it makes its Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016.

Saint Basil's cathedral and the rest of the magnificent Red Square provided the backdrop for the event launch, and a symbolic reminder of just how far Rugby Sevens has come in breaking new frontiers and reaching out to new audiences over a few short years.

“Hosting of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow marks a significant milestone in the ongoing growth of Rugby here in Russia and around the world," said IRB Chief Executive Brett Gosper.

“For the IRB and for the Rugby Union of Russia, it is the opportunity to break new frontiers and reach out and engage new audiences, new players, new nations that makes Russia so appealing.”

Two sole survivors from 2009 victors

Four years ago, Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai paved the way for the sport's Olympic return and notably featured the first ever tournament for the women's game, won by Australia.

“Winning in 2009 is something that I will never forget," said the Wallaroos' sole survivor from four years ago, Rebecca Tavo.

"It provided an incredible boost to the profile of women’s Rugby and women’s team sport in Australia. It put us on the map.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity of defending our title in Moscow, but it will be tough. All the teams have improved. Standards have increased greatly. We have some fantastic young talent in our squad and I am impressed with their skill level.”

Wales' men started the 2009 tournament as 80-1 rank outsiders, but on a final day defeated New Zealand and Samoa en route to a maiden title.

"We are looking forward to the Rugby World Cup Sevens here in Moscow," said Lee Williams, the only player in the current squad to have won that title with coach Paul John four years ago. "The experience so far has been great and we've been working hard. 2009 was great for us and hopefully we can retain the World Cup this year."

The landmark tournament will be supported by a giant festival of Rugby, music and culture with over 2,000 children from all over Russia taking part in competitions at the Luzhniki complex.