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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Dubai Rugby Sevens: 'This one is for you, Marco' as Speranza 22 defy expectations to win the International Invitational

A team assembled in memory of former Abu Dhabi Harlequins player Marco Speranza went all the way in the tournament one level below the World Sevens Series. 

Speranza 22 players celebrate after winning the International Invitational at the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Courtesy Rory Greene
Speranza 22 players celebrate after winning the International Invitational at the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Courtesy Rory Greene

As Speranza 22 set the seal on the most remarkable success story anywhere at the Dubai Rugby Sevens this weekdend, the one person in the squad’s entourage wearing 22 on his back raised his arm and pointed to the sky.

Orlando Speranza shed the first of many tears as the whistle blew on the 17-5 win over SA 7s Academy, and thought aloud: “This one is for you, Marco”.

“I was thinking about my son, because he is not here, but his soul is in every one of the players, and in every one who has supported us,” Orlando said.

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“This is a family. I cannot remember feeling this happy since I lost my son. This was his rugby club, and he was happy when he was here.”

Marco Speranza died in a plane crash in his native Argentina in February 2013. The team bearing his name has appeared at every Dubai Sevens since, but had yet to win a trophy until this weekend.

Doing it this time around was an astounding achievement, given they had accepted a place in the International Invitational, which is one tier down from the full World Series, and involves the development sides of a number of leading countries.

Not bad for a scratch side put together from a group of his mates by Ignacio Costa, a close friend of Speranza’s from their time together with Abu Dhabi Harlequins, but who now lives in Auckland.

“This means the world to me,” Costa said. “I spoke about this with my brothers, and we said there is no team we would rather represent than Speranza.

"Playing for Marco and Orlando means everything to us, and we are overjoyed with this.”

Rory Greene, the manager of the team, said: “Six months ago, the Costa brothers rang me and said, ‘We reckon we can get a team together for the Invitational,’ and I asked if they were sure.

“They said, ‘No, we will get one that can definitely come and compete’. These boys are far from arrogant. They have never let me down on a rugby pitch, or off it. If they say they can compete, they can compete.

“They are so talented, and I don’t think it will be long before we see them out there on the main pitch competing in their country’s colours.”