Shorter game times, less set pieces and more fluid, free flowing rugby have meant that for many sevens has a broader appeal than the fifteen-a-side game. Purists may slate is as something of a modern gimmick; a symptom of late twentieth century impatience. But sevens, or seven-a-side rugby, has a long and proud history that stands up when compared to its more eminent cousin.
With the sports greatest competition, the Hong Kong Sevens, set to kick off this weekend, we give you seven things you (maybe) don’t know about sevens.
Sevens is old…
OK so it might not be as old as the game allegedly conceived by William Webb-Ellis but Rugby sevens is till pretty old. Sevens was dreamed up by two butchers from Melrose in Scotland. In 1883, Ned Haig and David Sanderson, put together a fund-raising event for their local club, Melrose Rugby Football Club and sevens rugby was born.
Ireland missed out on a (kind of) World Cup…
The first-ever officially sanctioned tournament for national teams was the 1973 International Seven-A-Side Tournament held at Murrayfield. Although it is not officially recognised as being a World Cup, there was a tacit acceptance that it was. Eight teams took part in two pools of four. Pool toppers, England and Ireland contested the final. In injury time, and with Ireland leading 18-16, KEith Fielding latched onto a loose pass and ran the length of the pitch before touching down to win the tournament.
The first official Sevens World Cup was held in Melrose in 1993. There have been seven tournaments since then. New Zealand have won three of those, Fiji have the won the tournament twice while both England and Wales have won the trophy once.
Hong Kong Sevens
Many argue that the Hong Kong Sevens tournament did much to modernise rugby. Started in 1976, it was the first rugby tournament to attract corporate sponsorship. It also gave the gave a much needed dose of glamour and in many respects internationalised the game of rugby. It is still the showcase tournament of Rugby Sevens and this weekend it promises to be greater than ever.
In 2016, Rugby Sevens made it to the Olympics in Rio. In the men’s competition, Fiji won the gold medal, Great Britain took silver while South Africa won bronze. The women’s gold medal was won by Australia, with New Zealand taking silver and Canada bronze.
Vunibaka, now forty-four, is the top try in World Cup with 23 tries. The Fijian was top scorer in 1997 when his country claimed their first World Cup. He also appeared in 2001 and popped up again to wreak havoc on defences when Fiji were crowned champions for the second time in 2005.
Some of the rules are a bit funny
Well it is a different sport after all and the whole point of the game is attack, entertainment and speed. Each half is just seven minutes long but usually stretches out to ten as tournaments reach their grand finales. HAlf time breaks are just two minutes long and with only five substitutes allowed you can be sure that everyone is duly knackered by the end of the day. Conversions are always drop goals and you only have thirty seconds in which to knock them over. Another curiosity about the sevens game is the rule that the team who has just scored restarts the game thus handing the impetus back to their opponent.
It’s a funny old game
Would you like to find out more about taking your team to play in a Sevens Tournament? If the answer is yes, please get in touch with us at Irish Rugby Tours.