By Alexander McCowan
WHEN the Cyprus International Rugby Sevens team takes the field today in Lithuania (11.30am) to participate in the European Sevens competition their first opponents will be Israel, the side that was promoted out of European Division 2B where the mighty Moufflons will be playing their rugby next season.
The national side is undefeated in five years of competing in Europe and is the current holder of the world record for consecutive international wins – now standing at 23.
Sevens, however, is a short, fast and furious form of the 15-a-side game, invented by the Scots, and is played by seven men over a period of seven minutes with a minute break.
The players are extremely fit and have to play at least three games in a few hours. The teams compete for a cup and the best losers take part in the Plate competition, which Cyprus has won twice in the last two years, beating Germany on both occasions.
The games are held in different European capitals each year – Cyprus hosted the competition seven years ago in Paphos.
This year the tournament involves 30 countries and takes place over two days in Greece, Czech Republic, and Lithuania.
The teams are divided into three pools each playing the other with the pool winners going on to play the winners of the other sets.
Sweden, Monaco and Israel are Cyprus’ opponents in pool A. The other countries in this competition are Moldava, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark and Poland.
Andrew Binicos, the team manager and this column’s ‘Man of the Match’ in the Moufflons’ defeat of Hungary last month, said: “This will be a tough competition. There is only one side from a lower division (Monaco) all the others are 2B and above.
“We know Lithuania held the world record for consecutive wins before us and they therefore have to be treated with respect.
“These Baltic countries have been playing the game for decades. We have assembled a squad containing some very fast legs and some wise heads. It’s a good blend, and I can guarantee we won’t be found wanting.
“Ruaridh, our new Scottish coach, has acres of experience and he has prepared a squad in peak condition. Sevens is about fitness and technique and we continue to improve in both areas’.
The Cyprus fans will be able to follow the game on Saturday by streaming the following on the internet: http://www.sportotv.lt/rungtynes/2741europos-regbio-7-cempionatas