World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont is predicting rugby sevens to be at its exhilarating and compelling best at a landmark Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
One of the most-anticipated sports at the Games, the action kicks off at the Robina Stadium in historic style at 16:31 local time (GMT+10) on Friday with two rounds of women’s pool matches.
The 16 men’s teams get their campaigns underway on Saturday before three days of high-octane competition culminate in the medal matches on Sunday.
Rugby sevens made its Commonwealth Games debut in Malaysia back in 1998 with New Zealand winning the first of four consecutive gold medals before South Africa ended their 30-match unbeaten run to claim gold in Glasgow four years ago.
The inclusion of a women’s event has added to the excitement ahead of the 2018 edition with tickets having sold out long ago for the 27,500 capacity Robina Stadium.
Eight women’s teams will play in the historic competition, including Olympic Games gold medallists and hosts Australia, silver medallists New Zealand and bronze medallists Canada, who have the honour of playing in the opening match against South Africa.
The 16-team men’s competition has plenty of Olympic pedigree itself with gold medallists Fiji – hot off the back of a record fourth consecutive Hong Kong Sevens victory last weekend – leading an impressive list of contenders, including defending champions South Africa, New Zealand, hosts Australia and Hong Kong runners-up Kenya.
While nine of the teams involved have played in every Commonwealth Games to date, two nations will make their debuts on the Gold Coast in Jamaica and Zambia.
Beaumont said: “In a golden era for rugby sevens, this is the most widely anticipated Commonwealth Games sevens event ever. It is both historic as the first to feature a women’s competition, but also set to be highly-competitive and played on one of the most impressive stages.
“The Commonwealth Games and rugby sevens have enjoyed a long and hugely successful relationship and we are especially delighted that the Gold Coast organisers and our friends at the Commonwealth Games Federation shared our passion to feature a women’s tournament.
“And what a place to do it. Australia are the Olympic champions, the current HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leaders and a draw card at these Games. I can’t wait to see the reception that they and all eight women’s teams have at this landmark Games.”