Sevens Rugby has seen a spike in popularity in recent years with the success of tournaments such as the HSBC Sevens World Series but in fact the sport dates back to 1883.
As the name Sevens Rugby suggests there are seven players on the pitch, 3 forwards, 3 backs and a scrum-half. A Rugby 7s game lasts 7 minutes each half (10 minutes in a final) and is faster paced than its older brother 15s.
The rugby pitch is the same size and scoring works in the same way but scrums only feature the 3 front row players and there are less rucks and mauls as play is more open.
With the same ground to cover, fewer players and more time on the ball, speed and stamina are essential for anyone playing Sevens Rugby. It is a fast and free flowing game which is great for spectators. In Sevens Rugby there are also less technical offences so its easier for fans and those new to playing the game to understand which is why it is so popular as an introduction to the game.
It’s a great way for players to sharpen up their basic skills as it focuses on running, passing, tackling and decision making. Speed of mind and body are key if you are to evade tackles with a sidestep and score tries. Lose possession and the opposition can easily run in for a try so you have to keep focused and retain possession. There really is no time to think and no place to hide when you play 7s.
Sevens Rugby Tournaments
While the 15 player format of the game has a long tradition of kit designs and colours the new version of the game is known for its flamboyant rugby jerseys. The All Blacks retain their iconic kit but many countries wear bright colours with patterns. The same safety criteria must be met under the rugby rules but there is no law against brightly coloured strips! Yet.
Sevens Rugby Kit
The first Sevens Rugby tournament took place in 1883 and is still held annually in the town of Melrose, south of Edinburgh in Scotland. The trophy awarded in the World Cup Sevens is called the Melrose Cup after the town where it originated.
The first Hong Kong Rugby Sevens was held in 1976 and it is now a regular stop in the IRB World Series. New Zealand have won 8 out of the 11 seasons, with Fiji, South Africa and Samoa winning the other three titles. In recent years, teams such as England, Australia and Argentina have focused on 7s and have won events within the schedule. Nations not normally associated with the 15 man sport at the highest levels have joined the ranks of the core Sevens Rugby teams – like Kenya and USA – and Japan and Dubai have hosted rounds to help bring the sport to new regions.
There are 15 core teams typically Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, United States, and Wales. The lower placed teams have to compete to retain their core status with qualifiers from emerging nations such as Russia and Japan.
The venues for the tournaments include Australia, Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Japan, Scotland and England. The competition will be extended from 2015/16 to ten host countries with the inclusion of Canada, UAE and Singapore at the expense of Japan and Scotland.
USA Sevens held in Vegas remains a popular event on the calendar and has seen the largest crowds for rugby in the US. Now televised live globally, the sport continues to grow in popularity with the 7s format leading the way.
World Cup Sevens
Given the sport was invented in Scotland it seems appropriate that the first World Cup was held in Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh in 1993. It was stated that this Sevens Rugby Tournament would end with the 2013 competition in Russia leaving the Olympics as the key event however it was continued after there were concerns voiced that the Olympics would only feature 12 teams. The 2018 competition will be hosted by the US in two cities, San Francisco and San Jose.
1998 saw Sevens Rugby added to the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, with New Zealand dominating this tournament, winning the title 4 times. The Games held in Glasgow in 2014 saw the Kiwi’s lose to the Springboks in an epic final at Ibrox Stadium.
The International Rugby Board President, Bernard Lapasset, campaigned to have rugby reinstated as an Olympic sport and his efforts were rewarded when it was announced Sevens Rugby would be on the schedule for the 2016 Games in Rio. USA are just one of the countries targeting this medal as a way to grow the sport professionally.
Many traditionalists fear the impact of Sevens on the 15 format of the game. However former All Black John Kirwan stated he believed that Sevens Rugby and its inclusion in the 2016 Olympics was the key to USA Rugby growth.