Sydney’s world champion rugby team, the Convicts, have arrived in Minneapolis to defend their Bingham Cup title.

The official 2010 Bingham Cup program gets underway in about an hour with the opening ceremony, before the teams prepare to take to the field and ruck it out for the title.

The Bingham Cup is a biannual international, non-professional, gay rugby union tournament, first held in 2002. The tournament was named after Mark Bingham, a former University of California – Berkeley rugby star. Bingham died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on board United Airlines Flight 93.

The Sydney Convicts have won the Bingham Cup at the last two outings and are hoping to make it three by the end of the weekend.

With 50 players, four coaches, three physios, two doctors and nearly 20 supporters. The boys are focused on returning home with the silverware which they’ve become quite accustomed to having in their trophy room.

The Convicts are devastated that their long-time mascot, Sydney Star Observer columnist Maxi Shield, was unable to join them this year. Maxi sends all the boys her love and best wishes for their tournament

This year, the Convicts are excited to be joined by a number of boys from Melbourne Chargers. The Chargers are Australia’s newest gay rugby team and we’re very proud that they have been able to come along.

Earlier this year the Convicts announced they would bid to host the 2010 tournament, which would see more than 30 international gay rugby teams and their support staff descend on Sydney for a weekend of sport and fun.

Convicts president Charlie Winn said the timing was right for the two-time champion team to show their international opponents why Sydney is considered one of the great cities of the world.

“In 2008, Dublin hosted the Bingham Cup and the tournament was a huge success. We learned a lot about how to run a successful tournament and we are very keen to set the bar even higher for Bingham 2012,” he told Sydney Star Observer.

“In the past the Sydney Convicts have focused on attending and winning the Bingham Cup. Now, as two-time winners, we believe it’s a fitting opportunity to host it here in Australia.”

Bid organiser Matt Harper said, if successful, Sydney was likely to hold the event over the 2012 June long weekend, making it accessible to teams from around the globe.

“In 2008, Dublin had a record 34 teams participating in the Bingham Cup. For Bingham 2012, the Sydney Convicts are looking to exceed that,” he said.

“The Bingham Cup allows up to 25 players per squad. At 34 teams, this would mean 850 players. Then there are support staff and supporters. The bid committee is anticipating about 1100 people involved with the tournament. On top of that will be volunteers helping run the tournament.”

Winn said the championship would be centred on the club’s home ground at Rose Bay, though he expected the benefits to flow across the entire city.

“Australia is a rugby country, we love our footy and this competition is a great opportunity to see some excellent rugby being played by teams from around the world,” he said.

“We’re not fooling ourselves into thinking, though, that this tournament does not have much wider significance in Australia. The reality is, it is made up of gay teams and for many in Australia this may seem unusual. There is no better way to dispel the stereotype that gay men can’t or don’t play contact sports.

“There will 30 or so teams and hundreds of players coming here to prove the stereotype is false, that gay men can play rugby and they can play the sport at a high level.”

info: Details of the winning bid are expected to be announced at the closing party of this year’s event.

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