- Mitsubishi Motors Exeter Sevens kick off 9 July
- Chris Cracknell backs Sandy Park tournament to flourish
- Tickets available: ticketing3.exeterchiefs.co.uk/
Former Exeter Chiefs star Chris Cracknell says Sandy Park showed last year that it’s a fitting venue for Sevens rugby following the success of their inaugural year in staging a round of Rugby Europe’s Grand Prix Series.
Lining up alongside Moscow and Lyon in 2015, the Exeter public came out in force to lend their support to the seven-man game, providing a stunning weekend of action that eventually led to France claiming the spoils in Devon.
Now, the Devon venue is set to do it all again this weekend (July 9-10) as Europe’s elite seven stars head to the Westcountry for the Mitsubishi Motors Exeter 7s, which acts at Round Two of this year’s GP Series.
Cracknell (pictured), himself no stranger to Sandy Park having been part of the Chiefs squad under the reign of Pete Drewett in National League One, was back on his old stomping ground to cast his eyes over proceedings as one of the guest pundits for Sky Sports.
He saw at first hand the buzz that was created across the city ahead of the event and he has no date that this year’s spectacle will be even bigger and better, given the exposure that was created following last year’s hugely successful weekend.
“Having spent a number of years down in the region both with the Cornish Pirates and with Exeter, I knew how much the people love their rugby down there,” said Cracknell. “Having been in Manchester the year previous, where it didn’t really take off, it was always going to be a winner taking the event into a real rugby hot-bed.
“The stadium and the facilities in Exeter, it’s what you would expect of any top event. What the Chiefs have achieved over the last few years, both on and off the field, has been fantastic and it’s no wonder that events like this and that of the World Cup are going there.”
Although the 31-year-old is no longer an active player on the IRB World Series, Cracknell’s love for the seven-man game is unwavering and these days he’s helping to hone their skills of future stars over in Fiji, working alongside former England Sevens guru Ben Ryan, who have the South Sea Island to become back-to-back world champions.
“I’m still very much part of the whole circuit,” said Cracknell. “Sevens has been pretty much my life for eight or nine years now, but it’s a great sport to be involved with. I’ve got to travel to the world, play and coach in a number of different countries and experience culture that I probably never would have had I not been doing the Sevens thing.
“Of course it’s tough playing at the highest level, but as a professional player that is what you expect. Each year the levels – especially fitness and skill wise – are going up and up. It’s a tough, physical environment to be in, especially when you add in all the travelling as well. It takes a lot of toll on the body and for new players coming in, it can quite often take a year for them to get up to speed.”
And Cracknell believes it’s events such as that of Exeter that are helping to enhance the game to a wider audience.
“The European Sevens is a great tournament for a lot of the countries,” he continued. “This year in particular there will be an even greater importance on the event, especially for the GB teams, as they will be using it to help pick their squad for the Olympics in Rio.
“Opportunities like those they get in Exeter, Moscow and now this year in Gydnia in Poland, they don’t come along that often, so it’s important the guys really make the most of it and show what they are capable of doing.”Tickets are available from ticketing3.exeterchiefs.co.uk/