Originally posted by Calder Cahill at USA Rugby | Edits made to include the event's proper title
It’s been 733 days since clubs from across the country have descended on a select city to play for a rugby sevens national championship. While much of our personal and rugby lives have similarly been on hiatus over the last 17 months, the National 7s Championship return shines a bright light on rugby’s slow return to normalcy and in the lingering spotlight of the recently completed Tokyo Olympic games. 43 teams will land in Tukwila, WA and take the pitch at Starfire Sports in front of a live crowd where pool play begins at 9am PT, Saturday August 14, live on The Rugby Network. While each championship year is treasured, this gathering in the pacific northwest is particularly special.
“Coming out of a challenging year, it’s a gift for the rugby community to be able to come together this weekend,” says Senior Club Competitions Committee Chair, Erik Geib, “We look forward to celebrating the sevens game in our diverse, American way and we couldn’t be more thankful for the incredible work the Seattle community has accomplished in helping put this event together. We’ve been told continuously that many people are just happy to be playing rugby at this event, so we’re hopeful for a relaxed environment where we can safely compete against our peers.”
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The sevens National Championship has always been a core event within the USA Rugby community, fundamentally providing a platform for growth in different ways. In years past, the end-of-summer tournament has at times been the final proving ground for Olympic hopefuls on the fringe of breaking into the USA Eagle pathway, while also a first experience for newcomers and transfer athletes just starting their rugby journey.
Fittingly, this year’s tournament will be the first large event following the Tokyo Olympics where thousands of new and current rugby supporters were galvanized by sevens on the biggest stage.
USA Rugby CEO, Ross Young said, “We’re unbelievably excited to see championship rugby competed by clubs from each end of the country this weekend in Seattle, merely days after the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics. We know thousands of sports fans and athletes alike were introduced to our sport during the games and it’s encouraging that National 7s perfectly showcases the opportunity those new supporters have to parlay that excitement and get involved with rugby here at home.”
Geib added, “Numerous Olympians and World Series players have participated in this event, and this year’s event marks the first stop on the road to Paris 2024.”
On top of the hard work done by tournament organizers, The Washington Athletic Club, City of Tukwila and Starfire Sports to bring this event to life in a COVID-19 world, this year’s competition and qualification structure was restructured to support club participation.
“This year’s national championship event format is the product of a few years’ worth of conversations within the sevens community,” said Geib, “We’ve long believed there was an opportunity to expand the event with additional competition tiers and provide teams the opportunity to book their travel early and hopefully save on transportation and lodging costs. “This year’s addition of the Silver Cup is also a great opportunity to nationally rank more teams and get more players playing in front of scouts and on broadcast.”
Tournament organizers had hoped to have two tiers for both the men’s and women’s competition, however more men’s teams applied for this year so all of the women’s teams will compete in one Signes Cup tier, the National Championship tier.
Geib continued, “One of the best features of the weekend is that all matches will be streamed live and for free on The Rugby Network, thanks to the generous sponsors, partners, and supporters of this event that have been arranged by our host committee director, Tony Ridnell. This will include coverage of the stadium main field as well as minimalist coverage of the outside fields, fields two and three.”
As COVID-19 continues to affect the US and teams descend on Seattle from multiple regions, Geib and tournament organizers remain focused on athlete and spectator safety with organized guidelines and procedures.
“We’ll be following all state and local health guidelines. We’ve also requested additional tracking measures, such as athlete vaccination status, and for teams to perform daily temperature and symptom checks which will be turned in prior to competing. We’ve continuously noted to the teams that masks are also broadly encouraged when not playing and that they should be as safe as possible.”
The 2021 National 7s Championship kicks off Saturday, August 14 at 9am PT and will be streamed live on The Rugby Network. For rosters, standings, results and all other tournament information, visit usaclub7s.com.