Regional titles at stake in Mexico and Tahiti

(IRB.COM) Friday 13 November 2009
 Regional titles at stake in Mexico and Tahiti
Tahiti will hope to rise to the challenge of playing at home in the Oceania Sevens - Photo:

A month on from the International Olympic Committee's decision to include Rugby in the Olympic Games from 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, this weekend will see new ground broken in Mexico City as they host the NACRA Sevens.

This is the first time that Mexico has ever hosted a NACRA (North America Caribbean Rugby Association) and takes on added significance because not only with the 2009 winner be crowned, but also qualifiers determined for the Commonwealth Games and Central American and Caribbean Games in 2010.

The top Caribbean finishing team which is eligible for the Commonwealth Games will seal their tickets to India, while the top five NACRA teams will join hosts Guyana, and two Central American countries, at the Providence Stadium in Georgetown next July.

Thirteen teams will battle for those places in Mexico City over the weekend, including the host nation, Trinidad & Tobago, defending champions Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Jamaica and St Lucia.

Guyana, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe and Dominican Republic have been drawn in Pool A, with Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Barbados and St Lucia in Pool B and Bermuda, Jamaica, Martinique and St Vincent & The Grenadines in Pool C.

The NACRA Sevens also features a women's event with five teams - Guyana, Mexico, Cayman Islands, St Lucia and Bahamas - aiming to taste success. It will be the first international tournament for the Bahamas and Mexico women, while Cayman Islands could pose the biggest threat to defending champions Guyana.

"The NACRA Sevens takes on added significance this year with Commonwealth Games and Central American and Caribbean Games qualification at stake," said Tom Jones, the IRB's Regional Development Manager.

"This is the first time the NACRA Sevens will be held in Mexico. The 1.4 miles (2240 metre) altitude of the venue in Mexico City is sure to be a factor with the host team holding the advantage over the island teams."

Samoa favourites in Oceania

However the NACRA Sevens is not the only regional tournament taking place this weekend with the Oceania Sevens kicking off on the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia on Friday evening.

Six teams have travelled to Tahiti for the event in IRB Sevens World Series regular and RWC Sevens 2009 semi finalists Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

Samoa will undoubtedly start as favourites to defend their Oceania Sevens crown, but Tonga and the Cook Islands in particular are no strangers to causing upsets on the IRB Sevens World Series in recent years.

Add into the mix a Papua New Guinea side now being coached by Fiji's Sevens maestro Waisale Serevi and a Niue side who stunned Samoa in the Wellington leg of the World Series last year and with the magic of Sevens anything could happen.

The seven sides will all play each other in a round robin with hosts Tahiti, relative newcomers but excited by the challenge of Sevens, taking on Tonga in the opening match at the Stade Pater in Papeete on Friday.