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Rugby sevens

The rugby sevens draw for the Games is:

Pool A New Zealand, Scotland, Canada, Niue
Pool B South Africa, Wales, Tonga, Sri Lanka
Pool C England, Samoa, Cook Islands, Kenya
Pool D Fiji, Australia, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago

Posterity has not recorded exactly why William Webb Ellis decided to pick up the ball and run. But it's a safe bet that the schoolboy who reshaped the ball as well as the rules would be staggered to learn how the game has developed since that impulsive act on the playing fields of Rugby School way back in 1823.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the rugby gospel had spread throughout the British Isles and on to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and France.

And a hundred years later, William Webb Ellis's brainchild is a worldwide sport, professional and amateur, in two codes, 13-a-side rugby league and 15-a-side rugby union.

Yet for many people, the most spectacular version of the handling code is rugby sevens, the special brand of high-speed, all-action rugby that will feature at the 2002 Commonwealth Games for the second time after making a high-profile debut in Kuala Lumpur four years ago.

There was a time when sevens was seen as little more than an end-of-season jaunt or a useful way to hone fitness for the serious business of the new 15-a-side season.

Not any more! And the catalyst for the transformation of sevens into a front-line sport in its own right was the Hong Kong sevens, set up in 1976 and now one of the major events on the rugby calendar.

Initially, Hong Kong featured 10 Asian rugby-playing nations plus teams from Australia and New Zealand. But since those pioneering days, the competition has mushroomed into a world-class contest featuring 24 national teams in a three-day jamboree in front of capacity crowds at the awe-inspiring Hong Kong Stadium.

Proof of the growing stature of sevens came with the establishment of the World Series and World Cup in 1993, and its introduction as a Commonwealth Games sport at Kuala Lumpur.

That competition, in which New Zealand defeated world champions Fiji in the final, was one of the highlights of the KL Games.

The English sevens victory at the 2002 Hong Kong Sevens Tournament has also ensured the Manchester 2002 rugby sevens event will be one of the most popular events at Manchester 2002.

There will be 16 nations competing for the Commonwealth title at Manchester 2002.

The competition will be staged on the final three days of the Games at the state-of-the-art City of Manchester Stadium and the signs are that all the sessions will be roaring successes with teams and spectators alike.

The nations competing for gold at Manchester 2002 are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Cook Islands
  • England
  • Fiji
  • Kenya
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Samoa
  • Scotland
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Wales

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