Invitations were extended to many of the counties who participated in the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in Edinburgh in April 1993, but the International Rugby Board was also keen to involve emerging nations in the event.
Four such nations – Namibia, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Spain – booked their places in Scotland’s capital after reaching the semi-finals of one qualifying event in Sicily, while another was held to decide who would replace the USSR, which had broken up since its invite.
Latvia emerged victorious from this tournament involving members of the former Soviet Union and took its place at Murrayfield, which was undergoing a major renovation at the time.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS
The other participants were Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Scotland, Tonga, South Africa, South Korea, the USA, Wales and Western Samoa.
The 24 nations were drawn into four pools of six teams with the top two progressing to the Melrose Cup, the third to the Plate and the fourth-placed teams contesting the Bowl competition.
The leading nations all made it through, although only South Africa, New Zealand and Western Samoa could boast unbeaten records with Fiji, Australia, Tonga, Ireland and England all losing one match in their respective pools.
The quarter-finals took the form of another round robin with the teams split into two groups and Fiji emerged as the only nation with an unbeaten record after overcoming Ireland, Tonga and Western Samoa in the first.
The second group was fiercely contested with each nation claiming at least one victory, although it was Australia and England who progressed to the semi-finals despite their respective defeats by New Zealand and South Africa.
Each nation may have played eight games to reach this stage, but the encounters were still memorable, Australia notably breaking Irish hearts when Willie Ofahengaue’s try in the final move of the match secured a memorable 21-19 victory.
SCULLY SAVES THE DAY
The other semi-final featured a tackle later termed ‘moment of the tournament’. Dave Scully’s challenge met the charging Mesake Rasari so hard that it not only stopped the run, but also allowed England to win the ball and score a try en route to a 21-7 win.
“England beat Fiji in the semi and that was a great game, actually it was good enough to be the final,” enthused former Welsh referee Derek Bevan who took charge of the game. “It was real classic, nip and tuck stuff and the speed was outstanding.”
The final was equally enthralling with England captain Andrew Harriman using all of his blistering pace to round David Campese for the opening try. Campese and Michael Lynagh were among the scorers for Australia, but it was England who won 21-17.
The other nations celebrating at a cold and wet Murrayfield were Argentina and Japan, the winners of the Plate and Bowl respectively. Argentina beat Spain 19-12, while Japan overcame Scotland 33-19.
What the winners said …
Lawrence Dallaglio (England): “We played Australia in the final and they were a phenomenal side with Campese, Lynagh, big Willie O, Matt Burke and others so they were favourites, but we were up for it and they were the one team we hadn't beaten at that stage.
“I remember them kicking off to us and it couldn’t have gone any better. It went through every pair of hands, got out to Andy Harriman in his own 22, he stood Campese up, went round the outside and went the length of the field to get us off to an outstanding start. And before we knew it we were 21-0 up.
“It’s a great memory, a great moment in my career and something very special to be part of and I would never have dreamt of winning a World Cup Sevens and then 10 years after that of winning a World Cup in 15s, against Australia.”
Adedayo Adebayo (England): “We were basically a scratch side. We got together for the first time as a team the week before, played one practice match and went on to win!
“But there were a lot of quality players in that side and looking back that’s why we were able to wing it slightly – the talent came through. Looking back though we had no expectations of winning at the start. We didn’t know how far we would go. It just happened.”