Beds, trips and doughnuts: Why HSBC SVNS stars love Vancouver

Former Wales and Great Britain international Luke Treharne explains what makes the Canadian leg of HSBC SVNS 2024 so special for everyone involved.

Dubai and Hong Kong have been the traditional powerhouses of rugby sevens since its inception. Steeped in tradition and legacy, loved by players and fans. 

However, since 2016, two newcomers entered the conversation, and everything changed – much like it did in tennis when the emergence of Djokovic and Murray created the ‘Big Four’ with Federer and Nadal. 

Cape Town and Vancouver arrived with a bang and continue to capture the hearts of players on the series. Each of the four tournaments are unique but let me explain why Vancouver – the fourth round of HSBC SVNS 2024 – is so special. 

This year is the ninth time the sevens circus has travelled to Vancouver – and I’ve been lucky enough to play in seven of those. 

Every year I look forward to heading back to Canada, and BC Place. It’s the only indoor stadium on the series and is the home of Canadian Football League side the BC Lions and Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

A large proportion of players would say HSBC SVNS Vancouver is their favourite stop on the series. Competition weekend is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes it special.   

This might seem like a strange place to start, but the beds in Vancouver are the best on tour. With all the travelling and training, sleep and recovery are so important. I have dreams to this day of how blissful the beds are in Vancouver. 

The other amenities in the hotel are fantastic. The food is exceptional and varied, giving a taste of the local cuisine. There’s a games room that brings players together – I remember a tightly contested Wales v Spain table tennis match. 

The hotel is in the heart of the downtown area and really gives a feel of life in Vancouver. It’s a place where someone can work during the day, catch a local bus for 20 minutes and ski in the evening. Vancouver is the only ‘cold’ location on the series and it makes such a difference coming back to an amazing hotel.   

The mountains are a highlight of the trip. They rise from the sea into white-capped giants. For players on some teams, it’s their first experience of snow – and there’s a legendary video of the Fijian team on Grouse Mountain during the first tournament. 

From here, it’s a short bus ride to the Capilano suspension bridge which gives unparalleled views of the dense forest above a raging river below. This river runs down into the sea and there are plenty of beaches to have a – very cold – dip after a session. English Bay beach is a favourite among players and is also a great spot for a sunset. 

There are plenty of activities in the city, including exploring Gastown, which boasts one of the world’s few remaining steam-powered clocks.

If you want to see the city from above, there’s Flyover Canada, an interactive experience on the waterfront – or you can take a seaplane for the real deal.

One year we also tried curling, which is my favourite sport every four years when the Winter Olympics rolls around. 

Stanley Park is great for a walk or cycle around the harbour wall. It was also used as a location for the Twilight films. Every year we stumble across a set for a new film around the city. 

Perhaps the best activity in the city is exploring the many coffee shops and markets after a tough training session. My two favourites are the old-fashioned doughnuts from 49th Parallel Cafe and the salted beef bagel from Granville Island Market. 

For me, a big part of travelling on the series is getting to visit local communities and Vancouver Sevens is incredible. Every school we visited made us feel so welcome and the players loved the assemblies and coaching sessions. 

Two community highlights from the tournaments I’ve played in have been visiting the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that provides a place for families who have children spending long stays in hospital. 

The second? Learning about the First Nations’ history, culture, art and music on several trips around captains’ photos. The SVNS Vancouver organisers go the extra mile to make the experience for the players an unforgettable one.  

Finally, if we look at tournament weekend itself, the indoor artificial pitch creates even faster and more highly skilled games for the fantastic fans. They turn up in their thousands for the first match in full fancy dress and don’t leave until long after the last whistle of the final.

They show warm hospitality by supporting every team on the pitch which makes for a fun and energetic atmosphere. The tournament facilities are top-notch for the players from the changing rooms, to the food and the recovery areas.

And once the rugby is finished the stadium is a short walk to the nightlife in the downtown area. All the teams normally flock to the Roxy which I’d highly recommend for anyone visiting this year. 

Hopefully, this article has given some insight into why so many players love Vancouver. It will always have a special place in my memories of my career.

One year, Ireland captain Harry McNulty and I stayed for a week after the tournament and travelled further afield to Whistler and Vancouver Island. I didn’t think the tournament could get any better but Vancouver just keeps on giving.  

By Luke Treharne