Rugby World Cup Sevens Tournament Invades AT&T Park

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Ireland's Jordon Conroy drives through the Kenya defense for a try on day two of the Rugby World Cup Sevens
Ireland’s Jordon Conroy drives through the Kenya defense for a try on day two of the Rugby World Cup Sevens

Photo Credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Over the weekend, more than 100,000 enthusiastic rugby fans, from all over the world, descended on AT&T Park for the Rugby World Cup Sevens. A stunning and face-paced tournament, where each game was only 14 minutes long and consisted of 7 players per team, the Sevens was a thrilling and unparalleled event, unlike anything San Francisco has ever seen before.

AT&T Park was transformed into a rugby field
AT&T Park was transformed into a rugby field

“It had everything: world-class rugby sevens, an energetic and engaged audience, a superb venue and a wonderful atmosphere. It was certainly the best-attended rugby event ever in the USA, and the most innovative and digitally-engaged global sevens event,” Bill Beaumont, the Rugby World Cup chairman said in a statement.

Tom Billups, the Cal rugby coach
Tom Billups, the Cal rugby coach

Photo Credit: UC Berkeley

Tom Billups, the coach of the Cal rugby team and winner of the prestigious 2018 Sweeney award, seconded Beaumont’s statement, touching on the importance of hosting such an event in the US. “The Rugby World Cup Sevens is such an important event because it is the second most significant competition for rugby next to the Summer Olympic Games,” Billups told Haute Living. “Only the best team in the world qualify for these two quadrennial tournaments. By hosting we were able to bring our sport to the U.S. sports consumers and thus increase the profile of our sport.”

Japan look to break through England's defence on day two of the Rugby World Cup Sevens
Japan looks to break through England’s defense on day two of the Rugby World Cup Sevens

Photo Credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

The eclectic and diverse crowd packed the stadium on Sunday for the finals. Fijians clad in pale blue shirts and face paint enthusiastically mingled with South Africans, Brits, Frenchman, and everything in between. Although there were many different countries in attendance, there was a sense of camaraderie—a deep respect and love for the sport that transcended all nationalities. Even the staff of AT&T Park, clad in their Giants orange and black couldn’t help but be caught up in the energy and enthusiasm.  Sheer joy for rugby permeated the air and whether it was your first or 50th time cheering all the All-Blacks, a good time was had by all.

Jamaica's Rhodri Adamson launches an attack against Papua New Guinea on day three
Jamaica’s Rhodri Adamson launches an attack against Papua New Guinea on day three

Photo Credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

“The international rugby community is unique in that if you play rugby or are a rugby fan, there are no strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet,” Billups explains. “In the rugby sevens community specifically, due to the nature of two and three-day tournaments, everyone has lots of opportunities to mix and mingle, supporting not only their country but also appreciate the good performances of other nations.”

New Zealand players and staff celebrate the successful defense of their title
New Zealand players and staff celebrate the successful defense of their title

Photo Credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

New Zealand took home the top honors beating out England in the final match, 33-12. Locals enjoyed a little international flair at AT&T Park. International brands, like Australian-based winery Blass, who sponsored the event, were available instead of the normal local wines. All in all, the Rugby World Cup Sevens was a spectacular success for everyone involved—the sporting community, AT&T Park, and the city of San Francisco. “My favorite moment was Sunday afternoon at about 4 p.m,” Billups says. “As one of the first Americans to sign a professional contract in late 1995, to see AT&T rocking with so many people, enjoying the sport which has been my profession for almost 25 years, was very special.”

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