The New Zealand-based side said in a letter to the organisers they were having some financial problems and would not be able to travel to Rarotonga for the tournament, which kicks off tomorrow at the BCI Stadium in Nikao.
Tournament director Ben Koteka said it was unfortunate that the Gliders, which have been one of the regular teams, could not make it to this year’s event.
“We are sad that they have decided to pull out of the tournament but we can’t sit down and cry about it. We have to move on and ensure we organise a better tournament this year,” Koteka said.
“We have survived for 28 years and we will continue to do so despite the obstacles. The game has to go on and the tournament has to run.”
The Gliders, which are last year’s plate winners, were one of the pre-tournament favourites in the three-day Raro Sevens.
The experienced side from Waikato are known for their discipline and commitment and Sevens pundits expected the side to give the top bets a good run for their money this year.
The organisers yesterday had to revise the tournament pools and fixtures.
Defending champions Tupapa Panthers Matie Centre remains the top seed in Pool A which now has Atiu Warriors and national Sevens side, Manatoa.
Pool B which previously had the Gliders will now be led by Yalovata alongside Tauae Bulls (previously placed in Pool A) and Araura Enua.
Tupapa Panthers is the top seed in Pool C which has Arorangi Cowboys and Ngatangiia Matavera Phoenix while Pool D has Veiyasana Vikings, Avatiu Eels, Takutea Warriors and Aroko Dragons.
In the women’s competition, defending champions Raro All Stars remain the top bet, but will face a tough challenge from Cookie and Cream, Vaine Mauke and TKV Hot Mix Chicks.
Meanwhile tournament ambassador and former All Blacks Sevens captain Karl Te Nana is in the country and he is looking forward to this weekend’s tournament.
Te Nana was a member of the All Black Sevens team that won gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He finished his rugby career with 113 tries.
After retiring from playing Sevens, Te Nana began a commentating career with Sky New Zealand and is a regular commentator at the HSBC Sevens World Series.
He said he was excited to be part of the Raro Sevens Tournament for the first time.
Note – Detailed story on Te Nana and his expectations from the tournament in tomorrow’s paper.