Sevens: Spotlight on women for the first time

Sean Horan
Sean Horan
It may be the last time Queenstown hosts the national sevens tournament for some time, but there is also an exciting first.

The New Zealand Rugby Union has included women's teams in the provincial tournament for the first time with a long-term view to the sport's debut at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Six teams - Auckland, Tasman, Taranaki, Canterbury, Waikato and Manawatu - will compete in Arrowtown and Queenstown this weekend.

NZRU general manager of public affairs Nick Brown said the inclusion of sevens as an Olympic sport presented an exciting opportunity for the growth and profile of the game, especially for women.

''We expect the additional profile will encourage more youngsters to take up the game, particularly with the chance to win an Olympic gold medal.''

Brown makes no secret of the fact the NZRU is targeting gold medals for both the men and women in Rio de Janeiro.

New Zealand women's sevens coach Sean Horan and long-serving men's coach Gordon Tietjens will both attend the Queenstown tournament.

Otago men's coach Roy Hawker was disappointed the Otago women's team did not qualify following the South Island tournament in Timaru.

Although the Otago women performed well in pool play, they came up short in the semifinal and missed out on the national tournament.

Hawker said the addition of women to the weekend would ''add flavour'' and a new dimension to the sport.

Meanwhile, Brown has defended the NZRU's decision to move the tournament to Rotorua for a two-year contract from next year, removing the event from Queenstown after 10 years.

''The Bay of Plenty submission was a compelling proposal and offered the potential for future expansion of the tournament in terms of grounds and spectator facilities.

''Rotorua International Stadium will provide a fantastic environment to showcase the sevens game.''

He praised Queenstown for an ''excellent job'' with the tournament since taking over in 2003.

''The Sevens with Altitude organising committee deserve real praise for developing the tournament into a popular event on the rugby calendar.''


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