Charlotte takes break from 15s to compete in Atlanta 7s Festival
ATLANTA - Many rugby fans are eager to see the Women's Eagles Sevens compete at HSBC Atlanta Sevens for their final domestic appearance ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics. However, the international stage will not be the only place for women's sevens this week in Georgia's capital.
Following a successful inaugural event in 2015, the Atlanta Sevens Festival returns to Lakepoint Sporting Community & Town Center, where 28 teams will compete April 8-9. The 28 squads will play over six divisions: High School Competitive, High School Elite, Elite Club, Competitive Club, Elite College, and Competitive College.
"This event has grown from 24 teams to 28, and we have added competitive and elite brackets in high school, college, and club competitions," said Festival organizer Katie Wurst. "Coaches from USA Rugby's Coach Development programs and High Performance pathways have signed on to coach teams that consist of players who have registered individually."
The nine participating club teams are chock-full of select sides and National Development Academies minus the lone true club side - Charlotte Rugby Football Club. The undefeated women of Charlotte are taking a break from their 15s season to have some fun playing sevens ahead of the run for a national postseason berth.
"This weekend is a slight reprieve from the pressure we've put on ourselves regarding our expectations for success and high performance this year," said Charlotte coach Brad Richard. "The sevens will be lighthearted for us, but we will have a shortened 15s match versus 1823 to test us and check our egos before getting into playoff rugby."
Charlotte currently sits at 6-0 and atop its Carolinas Women's DII North Division. In its half dozen matrix victories Charlotte has had no trouble scoring tries in bunches, while holding its opponents to 26 total points. The dominant season has earned CRFC Women an April 23 date with the Atlanta Harlequins Division II side in the Carolina Playoffs. A win against the 'Quins would place Charlotte in the Southern Conference Championships in Montgomery, Ala., April 30 and May 1.
Sevens has typically been less competitive for Charlotte - using the code to stay in shape and in touch with teammates over the summer. Last year, Charlotte's men's team surprised many by claiming the South's bid to the 2015 Club 7s National Championships. The women's coaching staff believes their team capable of making a similar run if the players adopt a more competitive approach to sevens.
"The women of Charlotte certainly have the talent and heart to achieve anything that they decide to accomplish," said Richard. "If they wish to compete at a national level, then I'm sure they will do so."
Atlanta 7s Festival action begins at 8 a.m. ET and concludes prior to 1 p.m. ET on both Friday and Saturday. The early kickoff times and busy morning schedules will allow all athletes, who receive free admission to Atlanta 7s with their Festival registration, to make their way to Kennesaw State University's Fifth Third Bank Stadium to cheer on the Eagles and watch 12 teams compete for World Rugby glory. Two teams from the Festival will get the chance to play on the same pitch as their international idols, as the High School Competitive Cup Final will take place at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University Saturday evening.
The Festival will be streamed live via First15 Sports Performance, LLC's YouTube page.