McArthur Island will be rugby mad this weekend.
The Kamloops Sevens Tournament, which began as a 16-team girls’ event four years ago and has mushroomed into a 75-squad male and female offering, will be played across seven fields on Mac Isle on Saturday and Sunday.
“The atmosphere when the weekend gets going is fantastic,” said Euan McGhee, marketing and communications manager for BC Rugby. “The wonderful rolling hills, fall leaves drifting off the trees and a huge amount of rugby vibrance in the air.”
That idyllic painting may be accompanied by a few brushstrokes of clouds and rain this weekend, but nothing that should dampen spirits among the players toiling in the under-14 to under-19 tournament, which started in 2016, the same year rugby sevens catapulted in popularity after its debut at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, where Canada won bronze.
“The tournament has also been greatly helped by the growth of age-grade girls’ rugby,” McGhee said. “We’ve seen a large explosion in the last three to five years. That’s actually how this tournament started. It’s still female-dominated.
“The boys’ teams in club and high school have started turning their heads and going, ‘Hold on. That looks really fun. We want in on that, too.'”
Kamloops Rugby Club and other Thompson-Okanagan clubs, along with the City of Kamloops, have helped make the event become a staple of the provincial rugby schedule, according to McGhee.
Makeshift goal posts will be erected on fields used by all divisions, with the exception being U14.
Teams in that division will be encouraged to dot down within the confines of a central scoring zone, in which tries are worth seven points. Tries scored outside the zone are worth five points.
The idea is to train young players to get in the habit of scoring in areas that will lead to easier looks at goal for conversion kickers.
BC Rugby is in conversation with the city about installing fixtures in the ground that can support proper rugby posts at McArthur.
“We feel that, certainly, the potential is there with that tournament and we’re starting to make a case for a need for at least two or three of the fields to have the capacity for fully installed rugby posts, to be able to drop in and out as need for the field fluctuates,” McGhee said.
The tournament was held on fields across the city in 2016 and 2017, which was not ideal for parents and volunteers who were asked to drive players to games.
“Last year, we secured Mac Isle,” McGhee said.
“Parents can feel quite happy they’re not having to drive all over the shop.
“We’ve had great engagement from the City of Kamloops council. They’ve bought in and helped greatly.”
Finals will be staggered across the Mac Isle pitches on Sunday.
“The level of competitiveness and athleticism, it’s really wonderful to watch,” McGhee said. “It’s amazing to see the contrast from the very youngest to the very oldest. You see that progression across seven fields at the same time.
“The incredible support from an awful lot of the teams in the Interior, the north and the east of the province, they’ve really latched on to this tournament in Kamloops and made it a big piece of identity for them.”