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USA 7s Announcement Sign of Thawing

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USA 7s Announcement Sign of Thawing

David Barpal photo.

The announcement that the Women's USA 7s tournament will be held at the same venue and same time as the Men's USA 7s, in Las Vegas, is the strongest indication of thawing feelings between USA Rugby and United World Sports.

This was likely to happen at some point, but the appointment of Dan Payne as CEO of USA Rugby certainly has helped. Payne used to be Athletic Director at Life University, which participates in the CRC 7s (run by United World Sports) but is also in DIA rather than the Varsity Cup in 15s (DIA is run by USA Rugby). Couple that with the appointment of Jon Hinkin as the new USA 7s Tournament Director, and you've got the makings of a warming relationship.

Payne did say to Goff Rugby Report that the move to put the women's tournament in line with the men's event made sense. It took a load of work off USA Rugby's plate, and put the tournament in a venue and event already run by an organization that has shown it can run such events. The fan exposure alone will be significantly greater than for Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Hinkin has been hard at work making the 2017 USA 7s his own. The guy who started the San Diego Invitational (back when the USA 7s was in San Diego) with a few fields and a bullhorn has grown what is now the Las Vegas Invitational - the largest rugby tournament in the USA. In speaking with Goff Rugby Report, Hinkin said he will still keep a close eye on the LVI, even as he moves on to run the international tournament. The big change for the LVI will be the fact that the Elite HS 7s bracket will now be part of the NAHS Series, and will feature those games on a main field at the Heritage Park location. 

In the international tournaments, Hinkin said he's been in constant meetings to discuss player welfare, making the tournament more fun for the fans and better for the players, and the playing surface - always the playing surface.

"We have been working with the teams to see what we can improve," said Hinkin. "I am all about player welfare. If the players are happier, then the managers are happier, and that means World Rugby is happier. It's a lot of work. You don't put dancing girls across the field and call it a better tournament."

The big topic is, of course, the artificial surface, which came under criticism from some players, especially after they had a better experience in Vancouver. Hinkin said that the surface needed a more clear maintenance program, and that's being taken care of. Vancouver's plan of spraying the field with water periodically will also be adopted - an approach that made the field more slippery and thus reduced burns from the artificial serface. 

"We're even changing the type of paint we use," Hinkin said. "From my point of view, if I improve the product from within, that will produce a better product on the field and a better environment for all the fans."

All the fans also means fans of the Women's USA 7s tournament now part of the Vegas experience. Hinkin said there will be no second fiddle for the women's event.

"The entirety of the USA 7s to be a men’s and a women’s tournament," Hinkin said. "They will be on equal terms - the respect for the players, the way they’re treated, the facilities they have to use, and the overall experience."

Hinkin had a schedule drawn up in early November, and it will feature all teams in the stadium, with the big crowds.

So the announcement today USA 7s Women Join Men in Vegas brings the Men's event and the Women's event together. It's also a sign that two major American rugby organizations are a little closer, too.