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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Speranza 22 target more success at the Dubai Rugby Sevens

The International Invitational victors from 2017 may have lost a couple of key players but they are still hopeful of a strong title defence

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

The side who claimed one of the most remarkable – and emotional - victories in the 49-year history of Dubai Rugby Sevens 12 months ago are back to defend their International Invitational crown – but have already been victims of their own success.

Speranza 22 was set up in 2013 by a set of former Abu Dhabi Harlequins juniors, to honour the memory of their friend Marco, who died in an air crash in February of that year.

Initially, they entered into the third-tier International Open tournament. Despite not winning that, they opted to ask for promotion to the International Invitational event last year.

It is the highest level competition anywhere at the Sevens, bar the World Series, and many of the players involved in it are regarded as next-in-line for their country’s respective national teams.

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It should have been an unforgiving climate for a side put together between some mates. But the New Zealand-based team knew they could play a bit.

In their second pool match, they beat the Royals, basically England’s feeder team, 39-0, and they went on to beat South Africa’s academy in the final.

“Our story has been growing since it started in 2013, it is beautiful, and it is getting more and more special,” said Rodrigo Costa, one of three brothers in the side who used to live in Abu Dhabi.

“Last year we were able to bring a really strong team and make a case for Speranza to be in the Invitational comp.

“We knew we had a really special group of players. We play sevens in a way that no-one else does. Back home in New Zealand we had won a load of tournaments in a very dominant way.”

Their success did not go unnoticed. One of them, Luke Maisrewa will be part of the New Zealand side this time around, while another, Amanaki Nicole, is on injury stand-by for them.

Despite their absence, Costa is confident the side have a chance of defending their title.

“It is a sevens tournament, and it is an unpredictable game, but we know we have a strong team again,” Costa, who was the team manager last year after being ruled out of playing by a broken collar bone.

“There is so much energy when you play for Speranza 22, you really believe you can do anything. There is something really very special about playing in Marco’s memory.”

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