The Rugby Americas North Sevens Championship returns to Mexico City for the first time since 2014 with a lot more than regional pride at stake.
One men’s and one women’s team will qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens and the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifier in Hong Kong, while places at the Commonwealth Games and Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation (CACSO) Games are also on the line.
Based at the picturesque Campo Marte, a military and equestrian venue in the heart of Mexico City, the RAN Sevens features 10 men’s teams, split into three pools, and a seven-team, round-robin women’s tournament.
As six-time men's champions, Guyana will start as one of the favourites to claim the coveted title and a ticket to San Francisco for RWC Sevens 2018. They return to the scene of their last triumph with the likes of talisman Avery Corbin on board, although regular captain Ryan Gonsalves is a notable absentee. Dwayne Schroeder will wear the captain’s armband instead.
Guyana find themselves in Pool A alongside Barbados and the Cayman Islands. The Caymans were beaten by Barbados in the play-off for seventh place at last year’s RAN Sevens in Trinidad and Tobago, but Justin Wight is determined to set the record straight.
“We want to show people that we’re there to win the group and qualify for Hong Kong, we’re not there to mess around," Wight said.
“We got kind of complacent last year, we kind of expected we’d go back to Hong Kong. But this year we know we’re going to have to fight hard as everyone else has the same goal.
“It [the RAN Sevens] is a qualifier for so many tournaments as well as Hong Kong, like the Commonwealth Games, the CASCO Games and the Rugby World Cup Sevens. So, if we take first at this tournament, we are going for quite a ride around the world.”
Jamaica, Bermuda and the Dominican Republic are in Pool B, while Pool C consists of Trinidad and Tobago, hosts Mexico, Curacao and the British Virgin Islands.
Coached by sevens superstar Waisale Serevi, Bermuda are hopeful of a strong showing in Mexico.
“The expectation is to definitely to qualify — that’s the bare minimum. We’re going down [to Mexico City] to win. We’re not going down there to place second or third,” said Jahan Cedenio of the Bermuda Rugby Football Union.
The top four teams in the men’s competition and the top three in the women’s will qualify for the CASCO Games.
Twelve months ago, Jamaica’s women finished as runners-up to Canada who are not taking part this year. Mexico ended up with the bronze medal. Trinidad and Tobago are the next highest seeds at this year's event, followed by Guyana, Bermuda, Dominican Republic and French Guyana.
The winner of the RAN Women’s Sevens will complete the 16-team line-up at RWC Sevens 2018, as all the other regional qualifiers have already taken place.