x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Rugby Sevens kicks off

Hordes of fans, decked out in shirts of every hue, cheer on their teams at the start of the Rugby Sevens World Cup 2009.

Crowds cheer during the match between Wales and Zimbabwe at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai.
Crowds cheer during the match between Wales and Zimbabwe at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai.

DUBAI // The carnival came to town yesterday as hordes of fans, decked out in shirts of every hue and waving flags, cheered on their teams at the start of the Rugby Sevens World Cup 2009 in Dubai. The three-day event has 40 teams and 640 sportsmen and women taking part, making it the biggest Sevens World Cup yet. While record-breaking crowds of 50,000 for the Dubai Sevens in November led to queues and lengthy delays, spectators yesterday said they found access to the new Sevens stadium much easier.

Elaine Adamson, 47, a Dubai resident watching with her family, said lessons had been learnt. "It was easy ... there were better signs and the marshalling was much improved. People are getting used to the stadium, which will help the traffic flow. "The camaraderie of the players is great and the Kenyan team visited my daughter's school and spent time with the children talking and signing autographs. It is great that the sevens can bring so many cultures together." Sue Jackson, 59, who had travelled from England, said: "The complex is excellent. I think it is wonderful that women are competing for the first time." The Sevens Complex has been developed since November with better access and more refreshment options, while the gravel has been replaced with landscaped grass banking and flower beds. Activity areas, including interactive games and bouncy castles, have been laid on for children. But the tournament really began in earnest when England, the title-favourites, took the field against Hong Kong at 7.30pm. Spurred on by two of the stars of the sevens code, Tom Varndell and Ben Gollings, the England team ran out comfortable 42-5 victors over the part-timers from Hong Kong. Straight afterwards, New Zealand, the current IRB World Series champions, flexed their muscles by beating Italy 42-0. The defending champions, Fiji, cast aside their troubled build-up with a comfortable 26-10 win over Georgia, and South Africa dispatched Japan 26-5 in the final match of the opening evening. tbrooks@thenational.ae