Sevens: Middlesex Cup national event again

Otago University will attempt to wrestle the Middlesex Cup back to the South as the tournament goes upscale this weekend.

The Middlesex Cup, which was once the trophy played for among clubs in New Zealand for supremacy in sevens, has been largely confined to clubs in the South Island and Otago in particular in recent years.

It was first played for in Dunedin in 1952 and, although North Island clubs initially contested the event, it has been won by South Island clubs for the past 34 years. It died out for 10 years before being rejuvenated in 2006, when the tournament was played in February in Dunedin as a prelude to the club season.

The Burnham club won the tournament in 2011, and decided to put the event on a much bigger scale. No tournament was played last year.

The tradition is for the winning club to host the tournament and Burnham has decided to turn the competition into a national event. Games are to be played at the Burnham Army Camp this Saturday.

The Burnham side is joined by club teams from Auckland, Wellington, Tasman, West Coast, eight club sides from around the Canterbury area as well as Otago University.

The tournament will have 16 teams and the winning side will be invited to the Fiji Coral Coast sevens champion of champions' tournament in November.

The Otago University side has been drawn in the same pool as three Canterbury sides: Burnham, Marist-Albion and Lincoln University.

The University side is yet to be selected with the availability of Otago sevens representatives Paul Grant and Matt Faddes still unclear.

One of the tournament organisers, Nick Jordan, said it was hoped with more promotion and sponsorship the event would become truly national.

Many clubs from around the country were keen but the late notice meant they could not afford to travel to Burnham.