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Bermuda Rugby 7s tournament returns to island

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Welcome return: Bermudian Alex Doyling, left, will be returning to the island as part of the Kutztown University men’s team having earned a scholarship from playing in the International Rugby 7s Tournament

Tom Healy has hailed the importance of the return of the Bermuda International Rugby 7s Tournament after a break of three years.

After encouraging foundations were laid since its inception in 2016, the tournament organisers saw progress halted in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the event will finally make its long-awaited return to the National Stadium on Friday afternoon as 12 men’s teams and three women’s teams, made up of visiting collegiate teams and local sides featuring young national players, gear up for two days of action.

The tournament will also give Bermuda youth teams from Under-9 to Under-14 level the opportunity to showcase their skills.

Healy, who conceded organisers could not afford to lose another year of action, hailed the welcome return of the popular community-led event.

“Naturally we’re delighted to have the event back on track,” tournament organiser Healy said.

“We were forced to cancel at the very last minute in 2020 and then had to call it off in 2021 and last year as well, so it vitally important that we brought it back.

“To be able to host the event again is just huge because we don’t feel like we could have waited any longer. The first four years of the event allowed us to build it up and the fact that teams are returning again is such a welcome thought.

“It is a real community-led event and thankfully we’ve had some incredible support not only financially from sponsors but also across the island, including medical staff donating their time to help. It’s the community element of the event that we are always most proud of.

Welcome return: Bermudian Alex Doyling

“This year we’ve seen a really high level of excitement and more interest than before from overseas in particular. We really feel like we have an amazing opportunity to grow this event from here and that’s why it was so important to get it back up and running.”

As well as his delight at being able to host the event again, Healy also highlighted the significant opportunities on offer for the island’s young players, with a number of college and university coaches casting their eye over local talent.

The realistic chance of gaining a scholarship is possible with one such recipient, Alex Doyling, retuning to Bermuda as part of the highly-fancied Kutztown University men’s team after being offered a place as a result of featuring in the tournament.

Women’s national player Keonte White was also offered a scholarship at Humber University, but ultimately decided against accepting in favour of pursuing a preferred course elsewhere.

“We had two scholarship offers in those first four years, which is a pretty impressive return for what was a new community-led event,” added Healy, a men’s national player himself.

“Those opportunities are definitely there for these players. It is great to see Alex has gone on and made a name for himself as part of the Kutztown squad, who will be coming here as one of the hot favourites.

“Those sort of opportunities did not exist for young local players before because we would have had to travel overseas to compete in these type of tournaments and there would be a cohort who couldn’t go.

“Hosting this event reverses that and means we bring the college and university coaches to us. They have already reached out to me asking about certain players and who to watch out for.”

As well as opportunities overseas, Healy also reflected on the chance the tournament offers the island’s young players to catch the eye of Sevens national head coach Jamie Barnwell, while it also gives the women’s team crucial match practice against strong opposition.

“For a lot of the island’s young players, this is their chance to impress coaches within the national set-up and particularly Jamie Barnwell,” Healy said. “You always hope a few young lads will make that move into the senior team and this is a big opportunity to do that. I hope they take it.

“It is also a fantastic chance for the women’s team to get some good action and a chance to test themselves against the strong visiting teams of Colgate and Rowan University.”

With the tournament seemingly back on track, Healy is already envisaging its future, as he hopes it will evolve into a major multi-sport collegiate event on Bermuda’s annual sporting calender.

“Moving forward, we want to make this a week-long collegiate event with different sports involved,” Healy added. “We started with rugby but we see it growing to incorporate different sports and activities that we can offer in Bermuda.

“From a tourism point of view there is also a big opportunity and we know our plans align with what the Bermuda Tourism Authority want from sporting events.

“This weekend there will be an additional 350 people on the island just from this tournament, so we feel there is a great chance to build on that.”

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Published March 17, 2023 at 8:04 am (Updated March 17, 2023 at 8:04 am)

Bermuda Rugby 7s tournament returns to island

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