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Fast-paced, high-intensity rugby event set for 2010

In a time when speed trumps patience, a Twitter-style rugby tournament apt for the modern era is coming to Las Vegas.

The USA Sevens tournament, part of an eight-country series, will be Feb. 13 and 14 at Sam Boyd Stadium, the first year of a three-year contract.

It’s the trimmed down version of traditional rugby (seven players as opposed to 15) and speeded up (seven-minute halves compared to 40). That allows 44 matches to be played over the two days.

“Fans will constantly see different teams,” Sam Boyd director Daren Libonati said. “It’s definitely a faster pace. It’s high-intensity rugby in a short period of time.

“We’re excited to have them. From the time we shook hands, I felt it was a great opportunity.”

USA Sevens is the fourth tournament in the eight-event series that begins Dec. 4 and 5 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The series ends May 29 and 30 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In addition to the United States, New Zealand, England, Argentina and defending champion South Africa will be part of the 16-team field.

Argentina beat England 19-14 in the final of the U.S.-based tournament last year when it was in San Diego. Crowds of 25,000 to 30,000 showed up at Petco Park.

Las Vegas would love such crowds, and if most are from foreign lands to provide a festive atmosphere in the stands, all the better.

Las Vegas Events will help to market the event with the hopes of giving a boost to the Strip, which has been hit notably hard by the recession.

“I think it’s a great event for Las Vegas, the combination of an international crowd and rugby,” Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson said. “When you look at rugby, internationally it’s second (only) to soccer. The way this event was (run) in San Diego, it’s grown steadily. It has a good following, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Ray Peterson, managing director of USA Sevens, said in a statement, Las Vegas “is a perfect fit” because of the hotels and entertainment options.

To accommodate the event, Sam Boyd will cover its synthetic grass and place sod over the top.

The tournament plays on natural grass only.

In some ways, the tournament is like Triple-A baseball because players hope to impress a scout or coach of a more noteworthy and better 15-man squad.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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