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Hard partying and play at USA Sevens rugby

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A costumed rugby fan dances in the crowd during the final day of the USA 7’s rugby tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Chris Bitonti

The American leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series caravan rolled through Sam Boyd Stadium last weekend, bringing fans of the fast-paced full-contact sport from around the globe into the desert to see 16 teams battle over the three-day rugby tournament. And by all measures, this year’s festival was bigger and better than ever.

USA Sevens Rugby Tournament

While the sport has been picking up steam in America for a while, it hasn’t reached nearly the popularity that it enjoys overseas. In Las Vegas, the tournament remained an international affair. This was my fourth tournament and while there are still nuances to the rules that I have yet to grasp, I’ve learned the activities on the field are simply a fraction of the entertainment. In fact, results of the matches sometimes take a back seat to the international party going on in the stands.

One mainstay of the Sevens experience are costumes. Like a much hairier EDC, attendees get decked out for the event, some superfans celebrating their country’s heritage—lumberjacks and Mounties from Canada, knights from England, Scottish Highlanders, Maori warriors and New Zealand hobbits—while others choose a theme from superheroes to Muppets to Ghostbusters to safari animals. This year’s unexpected fan favorite was Jesus—or Drunk Jesus depending on the time of day.

Another off-field highlight of the weekend is the Fan Festival section. Located adjacent to the stadium, regional pop-up restaurants serve food from every country participating, including New Zealand meat pies, Kenyan samosas and Argentine chimichurri.

Played on the traditional Rugby field, the Sevens version of the game is like a lightning round compared to the original. The number of players drops from 15 to seven to increase the rate of play for the shorter games, which have two seven-minute halves. I'm sure that like many things we import in Las Vegas, to a purist, Rugby Sevens pales in comparison to the traditional game, but like many events in our city, the tournament also provides a perfect excuse to enjoy the things we do better than anyone else: great food, live entertainment and a non-stop party.

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