By RIDGE MERACLE
For the second year in a row, Kennesaw State will host the International Rugby Board Atlanta Sevens World Series at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, showing huge growth of rugby in the area.
Last year Kennesaw State hosted and event for World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series over Valentine’s Day weekend and it looks like Kennesaw left an impression on the people over at the International Rugby Board. Kennesaw State has been selected as the host again for the American leg of the World Series called Atlanta Sevens after hosting the tournament last year and an international test match with USA and Uruguay.
The International Rugby Board has been hosting the Women’s Sevens series since the 2012 season. A sevens game is a stripped down version of a regular rugby game with only seven players on each side (instead of 15) and it’s shorter, with simpler rules.
Shortly after sevens rugby was added to the Olympic event list in Rio next summer, the International Rugby Board has been doing everything to spread the game all over the world.
The World Series has tournament stops in Dubai, Brazil, United States, Canada, England and the Netherlands. Whoever finishes all the tournaments with the most points, wins the World Series. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have strong sevens programs and are already favorites to medal in the 2016 Olympics. But countries like USA, England and France are growing the sport rapidly.
In the United States, rugby is the fastest growing sport and there is no better proof of that than the growing game of rugby sevens.
“Every tournament I officiate it seems like it doubles in size,” says Atlanta referee Andrew Hutton. Hutton has been playing rugby since high school and has been refereeing for three years.
“It’s great to see a game that I love being able to be brought onto a bigger stage here in the U.S. and I am able to see it first hand here in Atlanta,” Hutton said.
Tournaments have been popping up all over the country and with the growth of sevens Local tournaments have popped up in Atlanta.
Quincey Nuckolls has hosted multiple sevens tournaments in Atlanta and says that the growth of rugby is seen even outside Atlanta.
“When I hosted my first tournament I was approached by teams from all over the South as far away as New Orleans. I was in shock that teams were going to drive eight hours to go play in a one-day tournament,” Nuckolls said.
The first tournament Nuckolls hosted was the Atlanta Midnight Sevens in 2013. With teams from all over the South and even a cash prize, he says it showed there was not faster growing sport in the U.S.
“There is no way to think rugby won’t be successful in the U.S.,” he said. “There is too many people who are interested in the game and it has so many characteristics that Americans love.”
Nuckolls went on later to say that the growth is just the beginning. After the Olympics next year, sevens is going to explode in Atlanta.
Atlanta Sevens will take place March 13-15. Tickets start at $12 and can be found at the Kennesaw box office.