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Can't wait for rugby sevens at the Olympics? Catch preview matches in Las Vegas

Many of the world’s best rugby players will be butting bodies in Las Vegas next month in the run-up to the rugby sevens debut at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s Mardi Gras meets Super Bowl meets Olympics,” organizer Rob Cornelius said.

The USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament promises to bring the feel of an international block party during the Vegas events.

It will be held March 4 to 6 at Sam Boyd Stadium, about 11 miles east of the Strip.

The tourney will feature teams from 16 countries -- from Argentina to Australia and from Fiji to France. Twelve of them, including Team USA, have qualified for the 2016 Olympics, which runs from Aug. 5 to 21.

The fast-paced matches last just 15 minutes -- two, seven-minute halves with a one-minute halftime. Instead of the 15 players per side in traditional rugby, or what's called union rugby, the teams field just seven players each.

“It’s played on the same size field of the traditional game,” Cornelius added. “It’s a very easy game for Americans to watch ... as it relates to soccer and basketball in finding space [to maneuver].”

[Learn more about rugby sevens here.]

By the way, union rugby made its debut at the 1924 Olympic Games, but hasn't been an Olympic sport since.

To prove the game’s popularity, the organizer points to attendance figures for the annual Sin City contest.

The number of fans has more than doubled over the last five years to 75,000 attendees in 2015. And it's traditional for fans to arrive wearing colorful costumes.

“It’s a very patriotic, passionate sporting event,” Cornelius added.

Guests can enjoy a variety of foods from participating countries -- including Australian meat pies and English fish-and-chips.

Ticket packages are available online or by calling (888) 784-2977. A three-day pass starts at $206.

More than 20 rugby-themed events will be staged during the days leading up to the tournament.

Team USA cheerleaders and players will appear at a pep rally March 2 at 11 a.m. at Blvd Plaza, on the Strip outside Monte Carlo.

And, a Parade of Nations will be held March 3 at 6:30 p.m. as part of the opening ceremonies. They will take place under the canopy at the Fremont Street Experience.


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