What is Sevens Rugby?
The game of Sevens was ostensibly invented as a way to play a rugby tournament in just one day.
As the name suggests, seven players take the field per side, and rather than the full 80-minute game, each match is just two seven-minute halves. The game is played at high speed requiring a different type of fitness to the 15 a-side code. The rugby rules have been tweaked slightly, such as three players in a scrum and sin-bins lasting just two minutes. Even so much of the original rugby game remains the same – players must pass behind them, remain onside, not fumble a ball forward, make tackles and compete for the ball at rucks. With only seven players spread across the field, attacking rugby usually bears fruit, with tries being plentiful. Players with the skill to beat their opponent find less cover defence and more opportunities. Individual brilliance is rewarded and the best teams usually have stars. Think of New Zealand’s Tomasi Cama and Fiji’s Waisale Serevi.
As a spectacle the modern game of Sevens has all a television audience demands – athleticism, point scoring and a multitude of sides that have the ability to win. Perhaps the hardest thing for television fans is being free to watch the 15 minutes that their team is playing.
The Sevens concept was both profitable and popular and soon teams from North England were playing. Within 10 years Sevens was being played in New Zealand.
In Scotland by the 1920’s there were eight regular Football Club Sports days running their Sevens competitions on a fixed Saturday of spring or autumn. In 1926 Middlesex Counties hosted their first sevens tournament – at Twickenham, London.
New Zealand were knocked out of the competition after losing to Ireland and England then beat Ireland in the final 22-18. England could claim to be Sevens world champions, however it would be another 20 years before the IRB introduced an official Rugby World Cup for Sevens.
1973 N.Z. Sevens players who took part in the Scottish R.U. Centenary celebrations. Back: Ces Blazey, E.P. Dwyer, L.Colling, B. Holmes, A. Sutherland, G.R. Skudder, Byers, I. Vodanovich. Front: G. Batty, A. Wyllie, I. Stevens, D.A. Hales, A.I. Scown.
Marlborough Rugby Team that won the inaugural national sevens in 1976. Back: D.W. Neal, B.P. Dwyer, J.H.M. Love, B.R. Ford, J. Davie. Front: D.J. Saul(manager-coach), S.W.P. Marfell, A.R. Sutherland(captain), K.R. Hodges(vice-captain), A.J. De Joux, B.A. Watt(selector).
Brian Paul Studio photo
The captains of all the 27 provincial rugby unions at the 1991 Palmerston North based Sevens
photo Manawatu Standard
From 1998 until 2002 there was a national Sevens competition for women run in parallel with the men’s Sevens. Auckland won the inaugural competition, with Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Canterbury also winning tournaments.
Unofficial New Zealand Women’s teams had competed at the Hong Kong Sevens at least as early as 1997, winning the competition in 1997 and 1999.
In 2000 an official New Zealand Women’s Sevens team went to the Hong Kong Sevens for the first time. The tournament ran alongside the men’s competition with the women’s finals being played on the opening day of the men’s competition. New Zealand beat Australia in the final 36-10. The following year 2001, three tournaments were held in NZ, Hong Kong and Japan, with NZ winning all of them by large margins.
Women’s Sevens went into recess for a number of years before being reinvigorated when the IRB invited Women’s teams to compete at an international Sevens tournament in Dubai in 2009. In a qualifying tournament held in Samoa in 2008, New Zealand lost twice to Australia. At the Dubai event in 2009 Australia again defeated New Zealand, in extra time to claim the first official International Women’s Sevens title.
In 2012/13 the IRB introduced a Women’s World Series over four rounds played at Dubai, USA, China and Netherlands. The New Zealand Women’s Sevens won three of the four tournaments to claim the World Series prize, and in 2013 won the inaugural Women’s Sevens Rugby World Cup at Moscow.
In 2014 New Zealand Rugby signed 19 women’s Sevens players to contracts, making them the first women to play professional rugby for New Zealand.