Preparations are being made for the first rugby clubs to be established in Belize, focusing on the hugely popular and fast growing Sevens game, which will make its debut in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games.
Rugby Sevens is a variant of the traditional rugby union game in a number of ways, chiefly:
* Seven players on the field only (2 Props, Hooker, Scrum half, Fly-half, Centre & Winger)
* Seven minute halves, instead of forty minutes, with one minute half-time
* All conversions are drop-kicked, not place-kicked
* Only three players in the scrum instead of eight
“Rugby Belize plans to focus on the development of rugby sevens as a forerunner to growing a full regular (15 man) team, and prepare to enter Belize into the next Commonwealth and Olympic games. Rugby Belize Global Ambassador, Jono Woodward, is himself an experienced sevens player and is enjoying a very successful pro-rugby career in sevens.” Explained Tony Gillings, Founder of Rugby Belize.
Rugby Sevens has seen significant growth in popularity, as rugby spread around the world and coaches realized that sevens offered an opportunity to introduce the sport to non-players and continue player development amongst traditional players, in a more focused manner, as it allows for better individual player development across the range of physical and cognitive skills before they move into the 15-man team game. Players can also remain in the sevens game for the entirety of the career.
The rise in popularity of sevens rugby is partly due to its fast paced physicality, but also because events are conducted in a festival atmosphere; many have a theme, like monsters or cartoon characters, and encourage spectators to turn up in costumes. This has resulted in an increase in the number of competitions around the world. Most notably is the World Series which is hosted annually by England, Scotland, South Africa, Dubai, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the USA, amongst others.
Most member-countries of the IRB, now have a sevens program to support their 15-man team development and boost awareness of the sport generally. Says Tony “Sevens is very popular throughout Central America and the Caribbean, and I hope Belize will soon be participating in competition across this region because with its festival atmosphere, nobody could do a rugby sevens event like Belize.”
Anybody interested in finding out more about the sport, or registering to join a team, should check out the website, and make contact via www.rugbybelize.com.
About Rugby in Belize
Rugby Union is a new sport for Belize, which has seen significant interest from sportsmen and women across the country, following recent articles in local and national media and the launch of its website – www.rugbybelize.com. “There’s been so much interest we are now busily setting up five rugby union clubs in Belmopan, Belize City, Hattieville, Orange Walk and San Pedro,” says Tony. “Other clubs will be organized where interest is expressed by local communities”.
To support the community-based clubs and act as the driving force behind further growth and development of rugby, a national governing authority is currently being set up. The Belize Rugby Board, working in conjunction with the National Sports Council, will ensure compliance with rugby laws and, eventually, work to secure international recognition to enable Belize to compete regionally and further afield.
The Belize Rugby Board will be affiliated with the National Sports Council and the Belize Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association, and will aim to achieve associate membership of the International Rugby Board (the global governing authority of rugby union) within two years. This will allow teams to represent Belize in a professional competitive capacity in rugby union, sevens and other appropriate events, regionally and further afield.
There are rugby authorities throughout Central America, including Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador, and across the Caribbean. There are also two regional authorities: CONSUR – which organizes and manages competitions throughout South and Central America and NACRA, which looks after competitions in the North. Rugby Belize will seek to apply for membership of NACRA, but will be guided by the IRB.
Rugby Union is just one of a number of variants (codes) of the sport. Others are League, Sevens, Wheelchair and Underwater. Whilst Sevens comes under the auspices of rugby union, each of the other codes has a separate global governing authority, and the Belize Rugby Board aims to establish links with these to help in future development of the sport.
The Founder of Rugby Belize, Tony Gillings, is a keen rugby enthusiast, writer and works as an HR Consultant. He is currently based in Ireland but plans to relocate to Belize.