The stars, the stripes, the Seve

Las Ve­gas has got into the rugby spirit with the USA Sev­ens tour­na­ment. and dis­cov­ers the sport is only the start of the ex­cite­ment.

The Press - Escape - - COVER STORY -

Six guys, one book, wads of cash and plenty of rugby. This is the Las Ve­gas Sev­ens. It starts with head-to­head bet­ting, but it soon be­comes ev­i­dent th­ese guys sit­ting next to me know noth­ing about the sport they are putting their money on.

‘‘I’ll put $35 on Brazil,’’ says one man, ef­fec­tively throw­ing his money in the trash.

The thing is, when Brazil and Australia play in foot­ball, and for Amer­i­cans, that means soc­cer, Brazil would be the favourite.

When they’re play­ing rugby sev­ens, there’s only ever one win­ner, and it isn’t the Por­tuguese-speak­ing South Amer­i­cans.

‘‘Yeah, I’ll put $20 on Brazil too, dude,’’ says an­other, think­ing his friend must know some­thing. He doesn’t. I lean to the guy next to me. ‘‘Australia are gonna win this by at least 40. Don’t bet on Brazil.’’

Four­teen min­utes later, my newly rich Amer­i­can neigh­bour thanks me af­ter Australia’s 45-0 win, and the bet­ting takes a turn to rugby roulette.

‘‘OK, what num­ber scores the first try? Odds or evens?’’ Only in Las Ve­gas, right? This is the USA Sev­ens tour­na­ment at Las Ve­gas’ Sam Boyd Sta­dium, a 30-minute drive from the Las Ve­gas Strip.

More than 75,000 peo­ple pack into this sta­dium over the three days of com­pe­ti­tion, show­ing un­com­mon pas­sion in a sport that barely rates amen­tion in the United States.

Amer­i­can rugby fans dom­i­nate the crowd, but there are also huge pock­ets of fans for other na­tions.

Fi­jian and Samoan Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties flood the ground, trav­el­ling from through­out the coun­try to cheer on their home na­tions.

Kenyan fans take up nearly an en­tire sec­tion of Sam Boyd Sta­dium, cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere more like an African foot­ball match than an Amer­i­can rugby tour­na­ment.

The Amer­i­cans can be spot­ted wear­ing the stars and stripes, Cap­tain Amer­ica out­fits or sim­ply Amer­i­can flag-flavoured un­der­wear.

At least two peo­ple were wear­ing that re­veal­ing out­fit. If there is one thing Amer­i­cans do well, it’s en­ter­tain­ment, and the Las Ve­gas Sev­ens are no dif­fer­ent.

In New Zealand there is a re­liance on the on-field ac­tion to pro­vide all of the en­ter­tain­ment crowds crave.

Amer­i­cans have known for a long time that the on-field ac­tion can only cap­ture your at­ten­tion for so long, and that they need to keep you en­ter­tained in the dull mo­ments.

Kiss cam makes an ap­pear­ance each day in Ve­gas, as does the United States Air Force when jet fighters fly over­head to launch the day two ac­tion.

Af­ter a US ser­vice­woman had belted out the Star Span­gled Ban­ner, the sight of two fighter jets came up on the big screen. The goose­bumps ar­rive as the crowd rise in uni­son, fire­works fol­low­ing as the jet fighters fly low over the sta­dium.

There are on-field com­pe­ti­tions, T-shirt giveaways, and the sta­di­umMCgets his boo­gie on in the crowd, tak­ing his shirt off to the dis­ap­proval of any­one with eyes.

They even have Cirque du Soleil – Zarkana per­form a 15-minute rou­tine be­tween matches, which wows the crowd as much as the sev­ens it­self.

The ac­tual sev­ens is pretty good, too.

Some of the best mo­ments are re­served for the home side, ob­vi­ously, and boy do they turn it on. The United States make the semi­fi­nals, chants of USA go up as they beat Canada in the fi­nal match of day two, set­ting up a clash against the mighty New Zealand sev­ens team.

Of course, New Zealand eased past the USA come semi­fi­nal time, but the mighty home side had al­ready cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of their home fans.

Per­for­mances like this mean the crowd could ex­ceed 80,000 come 2016, and who knows where it will go from there.

Away from the sev­ens there is al­ways plenty to do, and you need

Photo: REUTERS

Bright Lights: The Las Ve­gas Strip, home to some of Amer­ica’s big­gest and brash­est tourist mag­nets.

Photo: JACKMEGAW

Spec­ta­cle: Cirque du Soleil Zarkana per­form a 15-minute rou­tine dur­ing the Las Ve­gas Sev­ens atSamBoyd

Sta­dium.

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