Wellington is girding itself for the arrival of the Sevens Tournament. More than one wag has referred to the Sevens Weekend as Wellington’s Mardi Gras. There are even beads.
The tournament, in which the United States is participating, will be held Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 at Westpac Stadium. It’s the third of eight IRB Sevens World Series events.
Those are just the boring details, though. The Sevens attract about 30,000 visitors every year and, let’s say, it can get a little wild. There are even cheerleaders. To view their routines, some of which are a little unfortunate, you can check here. Many of the visitors dress up – flamboyantly. Action heroes, cartoon characters, nurses, Smurfs, mullets, doctors with portable IV-drips (probably with life-saving nectar in them) and everything in between can be seen on the streets of this fair city.
The whole town basically disintegrates into a fancy dress party occasionally interrupted by Rugby games – except when New Zealand is playing. Then it gets serious. (New Zealand has won the IRB Sevens Series more than anyone else, and the New Zealanders take their Rugby, including the Sevens, very seriously.) Even those who don’t have tickets to the games dress up and head into the entertainment district.
Apparently there is alcohol involved.
Oh, yeah, back to the Rugby. This year the United States is in Pool A, with England, Wales and the Cook Islands. It’s a difficult group. Not that there’s such a thing, really, as an easy game in Sevens: It’s the great equalizer format. Normal Rugby has 15 players. With less than half that, Sevens relies much more on speed. The defending champions are Fiji.
The United States team will be arriving at the end of January for training. They’re hoping to have a couple of scrimmage games. Perhaps even one against the Kiwis. We’ll post pictures and interviews.
Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy, Wellington