It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world today. Since its inclusion at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, the popularity of the sport of Rugby Sevens continues to grow.
From its humble beginning in Scotland, to the ‘Mecca of Sevens’ in Hong Kong, this fast, action-packed game continues to evolve. Last Word on Rugby gives you Rugby Sevens: the game we love.
Rugby Sevens: a Beginners Guide
This is the shortened-version of your normal fifteen person game. Half the numbers on the field, played for just seven minutes per half. With only slight rule changes from the full version, this is the game that a beginner can fall in love with quickly.
It is fast and furious, thrilling and entertaining, which gives satisfaction to modern day thrill-seekers. Fans of other forms of ball sports can pick up the basics easily: the objective is to score a try [5 points]. When your team scores, your have to restart by kicking to the opposition from halfway. The attitude is to attack, but there is also a no-tolerance on foul play or time wasting.
As much as the attention is on the field, Sevens brings an atmosphere of celebration. Rugby sevens is a great show, and the party atmosphere is very important. Think a carnival with seven minute intervals of sport. It attracts fans for both on and off-field entertainment.
Modern Origins of Sevens
The sport might have started in Scotland but the modern expansion of the sport is from the model play in the South Pacific. Popularized from the South Sea Isle of Fiji, whom are well known as the best exponents of the game.
Ask an avid rugby sevens fan who is their second favorite team’ apart from their own nation? The reply will always be Fiji!
Fiji plays the game in an unorthodox, free flowing style. Playing with unbelievable offloads and speed that leaves fans breathless. They also gave the world the best player ever to grace the game…. ‘the maestro’ Waisale Serevi.
When you talk of Fiji, you have to talk about their biggest foes as well; New Zealand. These two sides have laid the platform that the rest of the world is chasing now. The epic encounters between the All Black Sevens and the Flying Fijians still makes for breath-taking viewing on YouTube.
Giving Rugby Players Their Major Breaks
Rugby Sevens unearthed many star players who went on to be household names of the game. Names like Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, George Gregan, Lawrence Dallaglio, Eric Rush and the magician Serevi. Serevi and Rush are widely regarded as the best players to ever play the game with Santiago Gomez Cora of Argentina and Ben Gollings of England.
On the other hand, the game also gave us its finest ever coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens of New Zealand.
The game has its own World Cup contested every four years; it is also played at the Continental Games, Pan-Pacific, across Europe and at the Commonwealth Games.
Different Tournaments Gives the Global Game Wider Appeal
Ever since its inception in 1999, the World Sevens Series has reached millions of homes through its television broadcast. The introduction of a Women’s competitive series has seen an even wider reach. This has prompted many new countries in taking bigger steps in providing funding for the sport through all ages, grades and sexes.
Not only the sport is played at the International level, its biggest catchment is within the local and invitational tournaments across the globe. From the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji, to the Central Coast Sevens in Australia. From the Safari Sevens in Kenya, and the Punta Del Este Sevens in Uruguay.
— DHL Oktoberfest 7s (@Oktoberfest7s) September 29, 2017
It crosses borders and time zones easily, featuring local and mixed-international teams. They all come together to play the game they love. Who would have thought that one day, the sport would invade the famous Oktoberfest in Germany or California, USA for the Silicon Valley 7s!
This shows how the game is gaining popularity the world over. But first, let us take you back to how it all began; then to where it is today, before LWOR ponder ‘what the future has to offer’.
The Origins of Sevens Rugby
According to Wikipedia, Rugby Sevens was initially conceived in 1883 in Melrose, Scotland by two butchers Ned Haig and David Sanderson as a fund-raising event for their local club, Melrose RFC. The first-ever sevens match was played at The Greenyards, where it was well received. Two years later, Tynedale was the first non-Scottish club to win one of the Borders Sevens titles at Gala, in 1885.
Despite its popularity in the Borders, it did not catch on until the 1920’s and 30’s. The first sevens tournament outside Scotland was in 1921. In north-east England, the Percy Park Sevens was held at North Shields. Across the Ocean, the Buenos Aries FC hosted a tournament in Argentina.
In 1926, the Middlesex Sevens was born and the sport grew from there to where it really exploded in the 1970’s. The first-ever officially sanctioned tournament was the 1973 International Seven-A-Side Tournament held at Murrayfield.
Hong Kong Sevens – The ‘Mecca’ of Sevens
Hong Kong Sevens is widely regarded in the sevens world as the ‘Mecca of Sevens’. If you are a sevens player and you haven’t played at the So Kon Po Stadium in Hong Kong, then you are simply not a sevens player yet.
It is every player’s dream to play at the hong kong tournament.
Ever since its inception in 1976, one team has made it their ‘Home away from Home’. That team is Fiji, they have won 17 times in Hong Kong–including two Rugby World Cup Sevens titles.
Literally Fiji’s favorite hunting ground, where you will see them at their finest. Playing the game at its highest level, setting bars that other teams can only strive for, and entertaining the massive crowds that sell-out the stadium each year.
And while players aim to appear at Hong Kong, or one of the International venues, it all starts from a local ground in your home town. Children develop the fundamentals, and sevens is a great springboard for XV’s stars like Rieko Ioane. Making his start in the shortened game, he is now leading the modern game on the wing for the All Blacks.
The game will launch your career in many more ways then often acknowledged. And now with such a wide range of tournaments, players can look to specialize in the game.
Rugby World Cup Sevens
The first Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament was held in 1993 in Scotland; the birthplace of sevens rugby. Winners of the tournament will be awarded the Melrose Cup. The Women’s tournament started in 2009 in Dubai, and is a fine addition to the event.
Men’s World Cup Results
- 1993 – Edinburgh, Scotland — England
- 1997 – Hong Kong, China – Fiji
- 2001 – Mar Del Plata, Argentina – New Zealand
- 2005 – Hong Kong, China – Fiji
— Ryan Stickle (@Stick94) September 3, 2013
- 2009 – Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Wales
- 2013 – Moscow, Russia – New Zealand
Women’s World Cup Results
- 2009 – Dubai, UAE – Australia
- 2013 – Moscow, Russia – New Zealand
The upcoming 2018 event will be held in San Francisco, from July 20.
Rugby Sevens at the Olympic Games
The International Olympic Committee voted in 2009 to include Rugby Sevens on the program for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The bid for rugby sevens were led by the sport’s biggest names to ever play the game. Jonah Lomu.
2016 Olympic Games – Rio De Janeiro
In the inaugural Men’s tournament, Fiji won the Gold, Great Britain claimed silver with South Africa the bronze. One time favourites New Zealand missed out, but it was Japan who surprised everyone by finishing fourth.
The Women’s competition was won by Australia, silver went to New Zealand, with Canada getting the bronze medal.
Ever since its debut in Kuala Lumpur, rugby sevens has been established as a core sport at the Commonwealth Games. It was the only a male-only sport until 2014. The Women’s competition will debut at the 2018 Games, to be hosted by Australia.
New Zealand has won the title four times, with South Africa recently winning gold in Edinburgh 2014.
* only member nations within the Commonwealth nations compete.
World Rugby Sevens Series (Formerly IRB)
The World Rugby Sevens Series has been held every season since its inception in the 1999-2000 season. Each season consists of nine to eleven tournaments but currently sits at ten. The Sevens Series usually runs from November to May/June. Sixteen teams always participate in each tournament, fifteen core teams and a team that has won the right to participate, usually through Regional qualifiers.
New Zealand has won 12 of the 18 seasons, all under Sir Gordon Tietjens, six of them from 1999-2000 to 2004-05. Fiji won the Series 2005-06 and recently under Ben Ryan 2014-15 and 2015-16. South Africa won in 2008-09 and 2016-17. South Sea Islanders Samoa won the 2009-10 edition.
England (see above picture) and Australia have always been strong contenders, with some recent top four finishers. World Series have always been dominated by this big sevens nations. However recently, Kenya, United States, Scotland and Canada have challenged the norm.
Dan Norton of England holds the record of most tries (230), with Filimoni Delasau of Fiji holding the most tries in a season record (81). Ben Gollings of England is the highest ever points score with (2,652).
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series
New Zealand has long dominated the Women’s game. However, the past two seasons Australia has stood up and challenged them even winning at the Rio Olympics. The Women’s Sevens Series is hoping to find its foot but the way the game is growing, soon it will be as popular as the Men’s event.
Rugby Sevens have also found its way into Regional Games and Regional Qualification. From the Asian Games, Pan American Games to the Pacific Games. Regional Tournaments like Rugby Europe Grand Prix which has grown strong each year.
Many tournaments have long histories, but the increased interest in Tier-Two nations is all possible to the interest in the game, which grows each day.
Where is Rugby Sevens Heading?
The game of sevens continues to evolve with new horizons explored rapidly. The game will grow in the Middle East, to Asia and into to Latin America. World Rugby has programs in place to increase a presence in China, where the game could take a stronghold.
It is fast and entertaining, easy to coach and the results can go either way more today. At the highest levels, gone are the days where some of the big sevens nations dominated. No more, as everyone is catching up quickly.
Most will agree, this is the game to watch. It might not interest you today, but ask your friends and family, and they will agree with Last Word on Rugby -rugby sevens is on the rise.
So grab and ball, join a team and enjoy.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images