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Rugby gets underway in front of star line-up


Big battle: the Italian Fire Brigade and the PSNI get to grips with each other

Big battle: the Italian Fire Brigade and the PSNI get to grips with each other

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Big battle: the Italian Fire Brigade and the PSNI get to grips with each other

The World Police and Fire Games rugby 7's kicked off at Upper Malone yesterday with some famous faces forming part of yet another a packed crowd.

With teams from New Zealand, France, and Italy – as well as those from Great Britain and Northern Ireland – in competition, Ulster Rugby pair Paul Marshall and Andrew Trimble were on hand to witness the action, while Dame Mary Peters was also in attendance.

The men from Ravenhill were impressed by what they saw of the teams, with Trimble commenting: "In the games that we watched the players all looked handy enough and they were playing to a high standard.

"There was some good, physical play and it's good to see a few decent games."

Taking time out from Ulster's pre-season preparations, the flying winger continued: "We saw some of the PSNI game and they were doing well and apparently the Great Britain Police team looked good too before we arrived."

Scrum-half Paul Marshall added: "It's great to see the games here, especially when you see so many different nationalities around the place and so many people involved.

"It's a good day out for families to come and see the different events and it should provide a great boost for the economy as well.

"From everything we've seen it looks as if it's been a really good show that's been put on which is great for the city."

The competition opened with a round-robin and it was New Zealand Fire Service who predictably dominated proceedings on the first day.

After entertaining the crowd with their famous haka before the first game against the British Prison Service, the team took to the field four times throughout the day and their free-scoring performances surely make them the prohibitive favourites to take home the gold.

Despite the strong showings from the Southern Hemisphere side, the PSNI were pleased with their performances, especially when the considerably wider playing pool of their opponents was taken into consideration.

One member of the coaching staff commented: "We want to give a good account of ourselves and I think we're doing that. Obviously we only have a province of players to pick from compared to the likes of the British Police who are taking players from all over and you're never going to get an easy game against any side from New Zealand.

"We know that we'll be up against it in our matches but all the lads are enjoying themselves and it's good to see the crowds here as well.

"I've been involved in quite a few of these tournaments now and been to places like Calgary and Barcelona so it's fantastic to have the games here on our home patch."

The round-robin concludes today before the top four sides progress to the knock-out stages on Friday to decide the destination of the medals.

Dame Mary Peters, acting as patron of the 2013 games, was cheering on the competitors all across the city throughout the day and was thrilled by the turnout for the rugby.

The 1972 Olympic winner said: "It's wonderful to see so many people here, just as there has been at all the venues.

"Everyone has embraced the whole atmosphere of the games and we're so very pleased with how everything has been going. The restaurants are full, the bars are packed in the evenings and these sunny days have really brought out crowds."

Commenting on the possible legacy of bringing the games to Belfast, she added: "I've been so pleased to see so many families watching the many different types of sports.

"If only half a dozen of those children go on to take up the sports it will have made the whole thing worthwhile."

Belfast Telegraph