When you think of rugby strongholds, Vancouver probably isnâ€™t the first place that comes to mind, but in its second year as a host city of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Vancouver staked its claim to being one of the best rugby venues in the world, and once again prove that rugby is a growing force in Canada.
Vancouver was a new leg on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2015/16, and it was one of the success stories of the whole season. Hosted at BC Place, an electric indoor arena, the packed house delivered an astonishing atmosphere on its introduction to the series.
And it was England who ultimately raised their game. The team, led by talismanic captain Tom Mitchell, picked up their second leg win of the Series, beating Series leader South Africa 19-7 in an enthralling final.
The result moved England up the second in the series, but still lagging behind runaway leaders the Blitzbokke. It was a particularly notable night for Englandâ€™s Dan Norton, whose try in the final made him the joint all-time leader in HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tries.
Sean Maloney's commentators cut
The crowd drew rave reviews from key figures all over the game of rugby, including Irish rugby star Brian Oâ€™Driscoll, who was on the ground in Vancouver with series sponsor HSBC. We caught up with Brian to hear his impressions of this new rugby city:
"I wasnâ€™t really sure what to expect turning up in Vancouver last year. I know obviously that Ice Hockey is huge out here, but rugby wise I wasnâ€™t sure just how big the support was going to be. But turning up at the stadium the atmosphere was incredible.
"The closed roof gives it a really special feeling, and the fans here were going crazy for the sevens. Iâ€™ve had the chance to visit a lot of rugby venues since I stopped playing, for me, during my career to experience this would be right up there."
The expansion of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series to new cities and new markets over the past few years has really helped drive forward bringing the game to new audiences, at a really important time for Rugby Sevens following the inclusion in the Olympics.
The tournament was a great success and series sponsor HSBC certainly see the potential in Vancouver as a developing rugby market, having announced on Wednesday that they will be coming on board as Rugby Canadaâ€™s official finance partner for the next three years.
HSBC will support a number of Rugby Canada programs ranging from grassroots to high performance including becoming title sponsor of Rookie Rugby â€“ a grassroots initiative expected to grow from 85,000 participants to 375,000 over a three year period.
Next up on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is the incomparable Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. With South Africa never having won in Hong Kong and England right on their tail, it should be another enthralling tournament of Sevens rugby.
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