By Herman R Gibbs
Welshman Howard Thomas is plotting a rugby revolution in Russia, ahead of next year’s RWC Sevens 2013.
The former Sale and Premiership Rugby (England) chief executive Thomas on Saturday gave the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) delegates a brief outline of the progress Russia has made as the host for the RWC Sevens 2013 in June next year. Africa’s rugby bosses were all assembled in Port Elizabeth where the South African leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series is in progress.
In 2010, rugby’s world controlling body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), announced that Russia would host the 2013 Sevens version after Germany, Brazil and Scotland all initially showed interest to stage the showpiece.
In 2009, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that sevens rugby would be played at the Olympic Games in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and 2020 (still to be determined. Thomas feels that sevens’ new-found status as an Olympic code has fired the enthusiasm of Russian authorities.
“Russia has in the past hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games and with the inclusion of sevens in the 2016 Games the government support for the RWC Sevens 2013 has been considerable, both at federal and local levels,” said Thomas, chief executive and vice-president of the Rugby Union of Russia. “The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow will be the venue for both the men’s and women’s tournaments over three days.
“The Luzhniki Stadium is a world-famous venue that has over the last few years hosted many prestigious events, including the UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea.
“Rugby in Russia has high ambitions and the support from various sectors, most notably the President of Russia, will ensure that the game has a bright future.
“Awarding Russia the RWC Sevens 2013 host status is also in keeping with the IRB’s strategic need to grow the game globally.
“Russian rugby is up for the challenge and another factor that has helped breathe life into the game was that Russia made its Rugby World Cup debut in New Zealand last year.
“We have appointed travel agents in several countries to assist with getting fans to the Russian capital and the country’s authorities have eased the visa requirements considerably to help the process. We’ve reached a stage where the authorities will allow a RWC Sevens 2013 ticket to be as good as a visa.
“We’ve done deals with hotels so that accommodation costs have been kept to a low and there won’t be a situation where the ticket prices will be restrictive for Russian fans.
“We are on a high, as is the confidence within the country. The huge progress that our President has made within government to get support is fundamental to getting regional support.”
The Moscow-based Thomas, who has also been appointed as the Deputy Managing Director RWC Sevens 2013, said Russia was a great tourist destination and the plan was to expose overseas supporters to the country’s remarkable culture and history.
The Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 Pool Allocation Draw will take place at the historic Petroff Palace, Moscow, on February 28, for the competition to be played in the Russian capital from June 28-30.
The 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams have nearly all been determined with only the South America region yet to hold its qualifying tournament.
Qualified teams for RWC Sevens 2013, Men’s: Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Tonga, Tunisia, USA, Wales and Zimbabwe. The final place will be taken by the winners of the South American Sevens Championship in Rio de Janeiro on February 23-24.
Women’s: Australia, Canada, China, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia and USA. The final place will be taken by the winners of the South American Sevens Championship in Rio de Janeiro on February 23-24.