The debut of Rugby Sevens at the Summer Olympics may still be three years away, but this week 13 of British Columbia's aspiring women's Olympians – including Vanier Towhee Samantha Rumney of Cumberland – are bound for Nevada to compete in the Las Vegas Invitational High School Girls Sevens.
While the B.C. men's U18 teams have excelled at the Vegas Invitational in recent years winning both the Elite and Open High School Divisions in 2012, this will be the first official B.C. provincial women's age-grade team to tour.
Leading the squad into the 10-team tournament will be Cowichan-based coach Brad Skene and Vancouver's Pat Fleck, two of the province's top-level coaches.
The B.C. team staff began their selection process in December holding trials on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver and have since held training sessions building up to the tournament in the Lower Mainland.
While some of the players competed at the 2012 B.C. High School Girls provincial sevens last May, for many, this will be their first opportunity to compete in the seven-a-side version of the game.
"The players have adapted quickly to the sevens format and each session demonstrates vast improvements in their skills and technical knowledge," said Skene. "We are starting to see individuals come out of their shells and the personality of the team develop. These are hard working kids with a lot of passion and character."
The squad will be tested in a two-day tournament with a total of eight games to be played. Opposition includes a number of high school and invitational sides from both the USA and Canada. When the tournament wraps, the players will take in the Las Vegas Sevens, an official stop on the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series.
"Can you imagine being in high school and being able to travel to Vegas and play in an international tournament during the winter in rainy B.C.?" Skene said of his team's build-up for the tour. "Vegas is an exciting place with the sights and the IRB Sevens at the same time. In the future, the venue will be one of the reasons why players want to try out and be selected for this team."
The BC U18 provincial team kicks off their tournament on Thursday at 9 a.m. against the Snow Canyon Warriors. They then face Bishop's College School at 11 a.m., Team B5 (TBD) at 1:20 p.m. and ICEF at 4 p.m. Finals and placement games go Friday.
– BC Rugby