Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club’s chairman is confident this year’s Rugby Sevens tournament will be the best ever — despite losing their star guest at the eleventh hour.
However, rugby fans are still in for “a treat” with former internationals Peter Richards and Kevin Maggs coaching two of the elite teams.
The annual Greene King IPA event on Sunday is known for attracting some of the world’s best teams, and will be the kick-off tournament in this year’s Super Sevens Series.
Organisers had revealed that Christian Wade was this year’s sporting celebrity guest — but he had to cancel less than a week before the tournament.
It left organisers scrabbling to find a replacement before Mike Robinson, club chairman, struck lucky.
He said: “The Samurai’s are going to be coached by Peter Richards — a former England scrum-half — and the Ireland side will have Kevin Maggs — a former Ireland centre.
“It’s a treat to have these two coaching. They’ll be busy with that of course, but we’re hoping they will have time for an interview with us.
“And who knows, there might still be a surprise on the day, we’ll see.
“England and Ireland’s teams will also be arriving today, they’re booked into local hotels and restaurants and are expected to be seen in town.”
He said the club believe the focus, this year more than ever, is on the rugby.
“The main spectacle on the day is on the pitch anyway,” he said. “This year we have even more top teams, including the England development squad and the Ireland Wolfhounds.
“They tend to use the competition for practice, and to see the progress of players at the level below top-flight.
“I feel they will be taking it more seriously than ever before and that will produce some great rugby.
“I think sevens is bigger after the Olympics, people loved it and got a taste of a fast-paced, exciting version of rugby.
“It’s the rugby equivalent of Twenty20 cricket. It’s just been getting better and quicker as more and more clubs recognise its potential for fans.”
Northampton Saints, Worcester Warriors, French 7 Fantastics (comprising former France Student Internationals) and Esher are entering as guest teams, alongside the 12 elite sevens specialist teams — including Jamaica Crocs — of the Super Sevens Series.
Each of the elite teams will be battling to win the £7,000 prize money, which would have been presented by Christian Wade.
But as he pulled out, it is not known who will now present the prize.
Previous guests have included England players Chris Ashton, James Haskell, David Strettle, Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley, Billy Vunipola and last year Andy Goode.
Teams competing in the Open men’s line up are Bury Barbarians, including many of Bury’s St Edmunds current N2 1XV squad, Samurai Bulldogs and Apache Braves.
The family friendly day, sponsored by Greene King IPA, will once again be packed with activities and games for children, food and drink stalls including a hog roast, barbecue, a beer festival and merchandise stalls.
Speaking about the event Mike Robinson, BSE RUFC chairman said: “With teams from four different nations competing at the event this year, it really is our best line-up of elite teams yet.
“The quality of the teams, including premiership sides such as Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors, alongside the amazingly athletic and skillful specialist sevens squads, make this year’s event a must attend for any rugby fan.
“Nowhere in East Anglia can you see such high quality rugby sevens played at this level, an absolute treat.”
Gates open from 9.30am with tickets available on entry at £15 per adult, £5 for U16s and free for under 5s.