Cardiff Blues and Wales centre Tom Shanklin believes that if the edge of the seat action and young talent on display at this weekend's Singha Premiership 7s contest in Wales is anything to go by - the event will become a firm summer favourite with Welsh rugby supporters.
After a successful second year hosted at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park Shanklin said there will be plenty to look forward to in the future after a great afternoon’s entertainment for the rugby crowd in Cardiff.
He said: “It was a great standard of rugby, the pitch here is perfect for 7s, firm under foot and we saw some brilliant tries from the teams. It was a really good tournament with a very engaged, vocal crowd nearing 4,000 and thousands watching on BT Sport live and S4C - the feedback has been very positive.”
“We had a good mix of hard core supporters who live and breath rugby as well as new families who came down to enjoy a day out in a fun environment with plenty to keep us all entertained with music, 7s cheerleaders, competitions on pitch and the pre-match junior rugby festival.”
“It will go from strength to strength – just like Judgement Day, it will grow. Fans will tell their friends, the media will build and we’ll get more people next year. Welsh derbies are so popular – establishing new tournaments takes time and it’s never packed right from the start but 3 to 4 years down the line, it will happen.”
The Newport Gwent Dragons took the title in the all Welsh leg of the 7s competition on opening weekend last Saturday with Scarlets in second place and both teams going through to finals day on Friday 28th August at Harlequins home ground The Stoop, Twickenham.
The Dragons are continuing to fly the flag for the Welsh pro teams after coming so close in the final last year losing out to Gloucester rugby 12-5, the holders of the title for two years.
Shanklin said: “Hats offs to the Dragons they qualified and came close last year and come here again with a strong, fresh team. We saw some exciting young talent emerge – the likes of Keelan Giles (Ospreys), Lloyd Lewis and Ollie Griffiths (Newport Gwent Dragons) took their opportunities well.
“We could have seen the next George North or Sam Warburton out here this weekend – 7s is a great platform for exciting young players working towards senior rugby and becoming a regular at their Regions.
“It was good to see that the Wales national 7s coaching set-up was here too, they had plenty to feast their eyes on, with a lot of former and current Wales players enjoying a relaxed, social day out with friends and supporting their teams.
“Overall it was a really great atmosphere all day particularly with the junior festival to kick things off. Lots of families stayed all day and young players had a chance to see pro rugby in action –watching exciting, running rugby that will hopefully inspire them to keep playing the game.”
Ahead of 7s kick-off the junior tag rugby festival took place on the main pitch with more than 100 U8 teams from 10 clubs across Wales.
Teams from Barry RFC, Calicot RFC, Swansea Uplands RFC, Bynea RFC, Risca RFC, Treharris RFC, Tycroes RFC, Chepstow RFC and Ystrad Rhondda RFC were all part of the big day.
The tournament was sponsored by BT Sport with all participants taking home engraved medals from their day out at the rugby at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
Nadine Griffiths, Community Manager for hosts Cardiff Blues said: “The clubs that took part had a great day out – we’re really grateful to all the volunteers involved in bringing the junior teams down, our referees and community rugby managers for making it such a fun event. The kids loved it, they got to meet their rugby heroes and hopefully the families that came in support enjoyed a great afternoon out too.
“These are the occasions that really stick in children’s memories and our thanks to BT Sport for their support in our shared community focus to engage and inspire young people through the power of rugby to live active, healthy and rewarding lifestyles.”
Dragons 7s Coach Nick Wakley and Scarlets 7s coach Dai Flanagan will no doubt be relishing the chance to see their sides go into contest against the best that the English Premiership has to offer - with some mouth-watering England v Wales 7s rugby on show at the end of the month (Fri August 28th) visit www.premiershiprugby.com/7s
“It will be another big occasion for our Welsh teams,” said Shanklin. “It’s a big opportunity for our young players to test themselves against some very strong English sides. The chance to represent Wales against English clubs in any contest always brings out the best in our players and supporters - so it’s going to be a day out not to be missed!”
For tickets to the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s click here