FIJIAN FLAIR: Brisbane Fiji's Eliiosi Gio looks for support during the Byron Bay Rugby Sevens last year.
FIJIAN FLAIR: Brisbane Fiji's Eliiosi Gio looks for support during the Byron Bay Rugby Sevens last year. Marc Stapelberg

Reigning champions missing from Byron rugby event

THERE will be a new champion at the annual Byron Bay Rugby Sevens tournament this weekend after Fiji Tabadamu was forced to pull out.

Tabadamu attended the two-day competition last year for the first time and went through undefeated.

They have returned to Australia and won the popular Noosa Sevens tournament on the Sunshine Coast last weekend but picked up a handful of injuries.

"They had to pull out Tuesday night because they had about five or six blokes who wouldn't have recovered in time," tournament director Matt Barlow said.

"They will have to settle for watching from the sidelines before they head to the Central Coast for another tournament.

"But we've picked up some extra teams and the competition will probably be even stronger than last year.

"UQ (University of Queensland) made the final at Noosa and they'll be confident of going on to win this one.

"There are a couple of Australian Defence Force teams and Melville are back from New Zealand after making the semi- finals last year."

Numbers are up this year with 20 teams contesting the top division and another 16 in the social competition.

The carnival has often featured Sydney Shute Shield, Queensland Premier Division and Australian Sevens players.

Most of the local players will be running around in the social competition for Byron Bay, Lismore and Mullumbimby.

The Southern Cross University X-Rats are in an anniversary year and will be out in full force.

"One team alone can fill a tent of about 40 people these days," Barlow said.

"We estimate about 1500 players and support staff will be here over the weekend and there won't be a motel in sight.

"Brisbane Fiji are always in the mix and the Sydney Ferrets have done well with some Lennox Head guys in their team."

A running race will be held to determine the fastest player and there will be more food stalls and markets at the grounds this year.

The women's competition is also back with Far North Coast entering an Under-19 team.

They will face tough opposition against teams from the Hunter Valley, Sydney University and Sunnybank in Brisbane.

"It's a great product to watch and the competition is strong right across the board," Barlow said.

Games start at 9am both days with the finals early afternoon tomorrow.



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