One of the main aims of the Raro Rugby Sevens tournament is to act as the leading sevens tournament in the South Pacific region, and its message and the All Blacks guests go some way to making that dream come true.
Liam Messam and 2011 Rugby World Cup hero Stephen Donald will lace up the boots alongside Fijian Taranaki rep Pita-Gus Sowakula.
The former All Blacks will also be making contributions off the field, as they work alongside managing director of OnPoint Athlete Management Dion Smith and the CIRU to help develop the skills of local teams, managers and coaches at training clinics.
Messam, alongside other star players, will also be hosting a fundraising speaking and auction event to raise funds for men’s health.
That is the major focus of this tournament, as it aims to promote healthy lifestyles and support healthy messages for men and women.
Events Rarotonga are the new Raro Rugby Sevens managers and Glenda Tuaine will be working alongside the Ministry of Health and men’s health groups to promote these messages.
“November is Men’s Health Month and the ‘Movember’ Campaign will be integrated into the Sevens Tournament too,” Tuaine said.
Also being introduced will be a development programme for young players aged 18-23 to join registered teams to progress their skills, as well as schools’ outreach programmes that will allow youth to have contact with rugby stars and develop their skills.
A professional sports physio, Tanya Browne from New Zealand will conduct strapping and injury recovery clinics through six workshop sessions over two days.
A meeting has also been held with Oceania Rugby, fostering the goal of developing the 2018 tournament to bring Olympic Code sevens teams to the region and connect with Fiji and Tahiti to build a sevens circuit.
Another huge change to this year’s tournament is the prize money teams will receive.
Both the Men’s Cup and Plate winners have seen their winnings doubled to $8000 and $4000 respectively, while the Men’s Bowl and Shield winners have seen an increase of $1000, to $2500 and $1500 respectively.
The biggest winners will be the victors in the women’s cup, as they have seen their share of the winnings increase six-fold, from $500 to $3000.