Hundreds of people from across the UK will flock to London this weekend as they gear up for one of the biggest sports festivals on the calendar – Sevens and the City.
Hosted at Saracens’ Allianz Park by close friends and former England stars David Strettle and Matt Stevens, more than 70 rugby teams and 48 netball teams will compete in eight competitions throughout the weekend. There will also be a fitness competition for those who want to push themselves to the limit in the ‘Summer Slam.’
“Sevens and the City is something that myself and Matt have been doing for a while now and we love it,” said Strettle who is currently enjoying playing in France with Clermont Auvergne. “The aim is for people to come and enjoy both the sport element and the entertainment side of things and we are hoping to deliver that once again this year.”
As always, there will be top DJs playing at parties on the Friday and Saturday nights as well as VIP areas and pitch side cabanas, but there are a couple of things which really stand out at this year’s festival.
With the Olympic Games taking place next month in Brazil, there is a 'Rio Carnival' themed After Party on the Saturday after the annual rugby 7s event which this year will include Great Britain’s Olympic team.
Team GB will be heading to Rio this summer with coach Simon Amor set to whittle down his current 25-man squad (which he announced last month) to a dozen players in just over three weeks’ time.
The current training squad includes Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson as well as Welsh internationals Corey Allen and James Davies along with Scotland centre Mark Bennett, Harlequins’ Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Newcastle’s Marcus Watson.
“We have watched a significant amount of footage throughout the season of 15-a-side players and every sevens game from England, Scotland and Wales,” said Amor. “Exciting talent was available to us and competition for places was tough. We’re now really looking forward to bringing this group together as one team and creating an incredible Great Britain spirit.
And Strettle believes that spirit will be on show this weekend when Team GB take to the field against the likes of France, Italy, England and Wales in the showpiece event of Sevens and the City.
Strettle added: “It’s fantastic that Simon and his side are part of the event this year especially with the Olympics fast approaching. We have some great nations taking part in the top competition this year so it is great preparation for Team GB before Rio.
“I do believe they have every chance of picking up a medal in Brazil. Of course we have seen across the Sevens series this season with the likes of Scotland and Kenya winning tournaments that anything can happen. The lads certainly have the talent to succeed this summer.”
The Sevens and the City rugby festival is split into several different competitions. Team GB along with current holders England will compete in the Worldwide Currencies International Cup. There will also be a Men’s Elite competition for some of the best amateur teams on the circuit and a Women’s Cup which teams such as Saracens Ladies and Bath Ladies have competed in the past.
And Strettle was keen to stress that despite some of the stars of rugby sevens taking center stage this weekend, the key thing about the rugby festival is that anyone, at any level can get involved.
“It is obviously great to have the big names there, but for myself and Matt we just want to bring every aspect of rugby 7s together,” said Strettle.
“We like the fact that teams come to compete competitively and that is their main aim of the weekend, but we also enjoy seeing some of the social teams having a laugh and soaking up the atmosphere. The best thing of all is seeing people having fun in something which you have created. That’s when you know it has gone well!”