Sevens big boon for rugby

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Sevens big boon for rugby

Former Rugby Union stars, All Blacks’ (AB) Justin Warren Marshall and England’s Martin Christopher Bayfield, were here in Dubai as speakers during the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens Long Lunch at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Festival City on Thursday.

By Moni Mathews

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Published: Sun 23 Sep 2012, 12:17 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:13 PM

Both men feel strongly for the 7s version of the sport saying it is a speciality which will attract more youngsters from varying backgrounds.

The 6-feet 10-inch tall former lock Bayfield and scrum-half Marshall spoke to the media on the sidelines of the event.

Bayfield said: “The best part of 7s is that it can be accepted more widely instead of just size, physique and mental outlook as being the main requirements. The smaller made players are far better made for the type. I was not cut out for 7s because it needed a lot more of finer skills, fast running and quick interchange of positions.”

Marshall said: “The Olympic Games has accepted rugby and their choice of the 7s is absolutely correct. The appeal is much more and Rio will see the game growing bigger through the 7s version. After all, the whole exercise should about making more people play the game.”

Marshall was a permanent fixture of the AB lineups from 1995 to 2005 while Bayfield turned up for England and the Lions between 1991 and 1996 till a neck injury during a practice session put an end to his career.

The duo are now full time TV commentators, one of their major assignments this season being the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

“One of the great thing in the job is the fact that all the places I have been to as a player are now being visited in a different role. Then it was sheer hard work and a lot of physical work but today I am lucky to have an equally compelling job in the passion I hold so dearly,” said Marshall, whose next stop will the Test coverage in Buenos Aires, following which will be another long hop in the southern hemisphere to South Africa.

Bayfield said inspiring New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw with over 100 Tests led from the front for the AB in the their winning show at home in the World Cup.

“The New Zealanders are doing well and winning the cup after over two decades is so important for the sport. They have it in their blood. The tournament was brilliantly organised and we saw some high class games though England did not fare too well. McCaw is so consistent and effective and he never seems to get tired. He is a great motivator,” Bayfield said. The London Olympics opened up many avenues to the sporting fraternity, Bayfield feels. “Rugby does not enjoy much patronage compared to the gigantic football segment. It’s the money and TV that makes it (football) so hugely successful. What the Games in London did was to open people’s eyes about the existence of other intensive sports. Packed stadiums did a lot of good for the image of the nation and international sports as a whole,” he said.

“Some schools say rugby is too dangerous, but the development in Britain takes place mainly in the clubs. What’s alarming is the drop in adults sticking to the sport,” Bayfield added.

What makes the AB so attractive and crowd appealing?

Marshall was quick with a reply: “I cannot explain it easily. It’s the inborn thing I guess. After I made my debut in France, I would have been happy and contended even if I wasn’t selected in the coming years.”

“The Haka, the national anthem, fitting into the blacks and standing there proudly with your team-mates. No feeling better than that. We are one integrated nation and we New Zealanders take immense pride both individually and as a nation in many things,” Marshall continued.

“Rugby is top priority when one is into it. It’s just there in us irrespective of what background or belief one comes from. The world cup win was so very important for us. Rugby is more than just a sport for us.”

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