THIS year’s Swindon Sevens Rugby Festival kicks off today, with the winner at Greenbridge Road walking away with £1,000.

Swindon Rugby Club will play host to 16 top seven-a-side teams competing for either the Vase, the Plate or the Cup.

Last year’s champions, Sailor Jerrys, are returning to defend their title against familiar faces from last year, and new teams from around the country.

Swindon chairman Stuart Cock said: “The 2013 competition was a fantastic day of rugby enjoyed by all the teams, and hundreds of spectators were treated to some spectacular sport showcasing all that is good in sevens.

“I am delighted to see the festival held again this year and what will be a thrilling day of rugby sevens with fun for all the family thrown in.

“The competition has attracted some of the best sevens team in the country and will provide tremendous entertainment.”

Apart from the prospect of an exciting day of rugby, Cock is pleased for two other reasons.

He said: “Hosting a strong sevens tournament supports the club’s objective of allowing anybody to experience rugby.

“It expands the club’s activities beyond the traditional focus on the 15-a-side game, and into other forms of rugby union.

“We’ve started this with tag rugby and already have a great level of participation, and the sevens builds on this.”

Secondly, the Sevens Rugby Festival provides a means of raising funds to further develop the clubs facilities and infrastructure.

The chairman added: “The club has ambitious plans and has started to make these reality through the creation of a third pitch and the redevelopment of the changing rooms.

“Having improved facilities will help sustain the phenomenal success of the first XV in recent years.

“However, it’s not just about the senior teams on a Saturday. Swindon is a community rugby club and better facilities will allow the club to be accessible to the whole community, for example, a girls rugby section, and also local agencies and other sports organisations, such as North Wilts Hockey, schools and community groups.

“Our aspirations, and the tremendous work undertaken to date, have been recognised through the recent award of a Sport England Lottery Funding grant, but that isn’t the end of the story.

“Events like the sevens is extremely important in helping us raise money to take the club forward.”

Underlining the community aspect of the club is the fact that local businesses are keen to be involved.

The event has also been recognised by the RFU, and Wiltshire and Swindon Sport (Wasp), who have provided financial support.