By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A friendly sevens rugby competition was played on Rio’s Ipanema beach on Saturday December 19th. The Beach Rugby Super Challenge was used to promote rugby ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games where the sport will make a return after a 92-year absence.
International heavyweights Argentina came to drum up support for the sport, as well as teams from Portugal, Italy, Uruguay and Colombia. Despite soaring temperatures, the event passed off well.
Brazil’s women remained unbeaten throughout, triumphing over Argentina 8-5 in the final. Colombia beat Uruguay to finish in bronze position. In the men’s competition, Argentina managed a 9-5 victory over Portugal and Italy came third after beating Brazil 6-1.
The weekend’s competition began with 450 children taking part in a World Rugby “Get Into Rugby” taster event. Though rugby is very popular in Argentina it is less widely played in Brazil. The beach rugby competition was a chance to promote the game in Rio and play alongside neighbours, Argentina.
“We admire the Argentines very much, we are learning with them,” explained Gabriel Cenamo, the assistant coach to the Brazilian women’s team. “The rivalry between us is much less so in rugby [than in football].”
Beach rugby is a fast-paced game, played over two halves of five minutes and kicking the ball is forbidden. As the temperature reached close to 40 degrees players struggled under the fierce summer sunshine and with hot sand underfoot. Next year, during the Olympics, temperatures are likely to be more reasonable as the competition will be held in August, Rio’s winter.
Temporary seating for one thousand people attracted a number of spectators who showed their support by banging drums, tooting horns and singing.