Sevens heaven at Byron Bay rugby club
BOND University will be back to defend its title at the 29th annual Byron Bay Rugby Sevens carnival next weekend.
The Gold Coast-based team will be one of 16 contesting the elite competition at the two-day carnival which also includes 22 social and 16 women's teams.
The carnival has often featured Sydney Shute Shield, Queensland Premier Division and Australian sevens players in recent years.
It will be the cream of the crop this year with the event pushed back a week to avoid a clash with the Noosa International Sevens on the Sunshine Coast this weekend.
There will be teams from Fiji and New Zealand, the Morobe Hammerheads from Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu's Illfra Blackbirds.
Numbers are well up this year after only six teams took part in the elite competition last year when entries were spread between Byron Bay and Noosa.
"We've had a big response and I believe 54 entries takes us to a record number of teams,” event organiser Eddy Brown said.
"This is the first time it has been pushed back a week and it means we'll definitely have the best here.
"There is some real talent across the field and it will be interesting to see what the Vanuatu team bring.”
The Byron Bay Bullets have entered the women's competition and will take on a tough field including the New Zealand Institute of Sport team and reigning champions Sunnybank.
All the Far North Coast men's teams are in the social division with Lennox Head back to defend the title after winning it for the first time last year.
Byron Bay is fielding a team along with Mullumbimby and Tenterfield while tournament regulars Nerang and Sunnybank have entered again.
"The social competition is a lot of fun and we're encouraging a lot of fancy dress and different themes,” Brown said.
"Last year we had everything from a gang of penguins to safari suits.”
It starts early this year with a school-based sevens competition at the Byron Bay Recreation Grounds on Thursday and Friday.
The kids competition has been split into primary school and high school this year.
"They came from everywhere last year and our (NSW Rugby) development officer Tom Davidson was keen to expand it this year,” Brown said.
"It's a great introduction for kids into rugby and a good way for us to keep growing the game locally.”