You don’t have to wait till next Saturday to get a glimpse of international rugby, as the Elite Men’s bracket of the Las Vegas Invitational (starting Thursday th 10th) boasts several international sides and some seriously talented teams invited from all over the globe. The elite bracket will be filled with the highest quality 7s outside of the World Series and a thrilling 2010 final between Samurai (England) and Uprising (Fiji) is sure to be eclipsed by this year’s field.
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Mexico, Chile, Russia, and Bermuda are sending their national teams. France is sending a select side. Globetrotting tour-centric teams Kamikaze International (England) and the Dog River Howlers (Canada) will be in attendance, as will USA Rugby Club 7s National Champs Old Puget Sound Beach out of Seattle.
The two teams with the most USA Sevens experience are Mexico and Chile, both of whom have competed in the big show – the World Series – in years past. Chile is 3-12 all time at USA Sevens, defeating Japan in 2010, the West Indies in 2008 and Canada in 2007. Mexico is 1-19, with its lone win coming against the West Indies in 2005. While both Latin American sides would probably rather be in the big show, playing in the Elite LVI competition will provide a better shot at hardware.
Mexico was pretty active in the last year, playing in a couple American tournaments. In one, Cape Fear, the Mexicans finished behind four American club sides – New Orleans, NOVA, 1823 and the Pacific Barbarians. That performance would lead you to believe Mexico is a weak squad, but they also went 5-2 at the North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) 7s Championship last summer, so it’ll be interesting to see which Mexican team shows up.
The national team traveling the furthest distance is Russia, whose 15s squad made a trip to the States in June for the Churchill Cup, going 1-2. Set to host the 2013 Rugby 7s World Cup, Russia is putting more emphasis on the abbreviated game now than ever, and a good showing in Las Vegas would be a confidence booster. It’s probably fair to say Russia is the team in the Elite bracket with the biggest chip on its shoulder because it’s not playing inside the stadium.
This competition was won last year by an English touring side, and another, Kamikaze International, will attempt to take the second title back to the British Isles, a goal that’s well within reach. Sneaking in as dark horses are the Dog River Howlers out of Saskatchewan, as well as France’s select side.
Rounding out the Elite bracket are some domestic sides that could be up against it. Humless and the Las Vegas Blackjacks are interesting teams. Depending on who boots up for whom, (The Utah Warriors playing 15s and drawing elite players from both of these sides could throw a wrench in things) either could be competitive. Late additions to the bracket are the Alaska Maulers and Kansas City Rogues. The Maulers are a relatively unknown bunch that usually plays 15s in the summer, and the Kansas City Rogues are a mainstay in the West 7s circuit that boasts some raw talent.