Rugby sevens, also known as seven-a-side or VIIs, is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players, instead of the usual 15, with shorter matches. Rugby sevens is administered by the International Rugby Board (IRB), the body responsible for rugby union worldwide. The game originated in Melrose, Scotland, where the Melrose Sevens tournament is still played annually. The game is popular at all levels, with amateur and club tournaments generally held in the summer months. Sevens is one of the most well distributed forms of rugby, and is popular in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and especially in the South Pacific.[1]

Notable international competitions include the IRB Sevens World Series and the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Rugby sevens is also played at some multi-sport events such as the Commonwealth Games, taking place four times (1998 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2002 – Manchester, England, 2006 – Melbourne, Australia, and 2010 – Delhi, India), each time the gold medal being won by New Zealand.

Rugby sevens is now recognised as an Olympic sport and will make its debut in the 2016 Summer Olympics. This follows a vote by the executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the sport. That decision was backed at the 121st International Olympic Committee Session in Copenhagen on 9 October 2009.[2]


File:Hong Kong Sevens Parade.jpg

Rugby sevens is sanctioned by the IRB, and is played under substantially the same laws with an exception that the team that scores has to restart with a kick off and is played on a field of the same dimensions as the 15-player game. While a normal rugby union match lasts at least 80 minutes, a normal sevens match consists of two-halves of seven minutes with a one-minute half-time break. The final of a competition can be played over two-halves of ten minutes each, with a half-time break of two minutes. (In the IRB Sevens World Series, only the Cup final, which determines the overall winner of an event, is played with 10-minute halves; all finals for lower-level trophies are played with 7-minute halves.[3]) Sevens scores are generally comparable to union scores; scoring occurs much more frequently in sevens, since the defenders are more spaced out.

The shorter match length allows rugby sevens tournaments to be completed in a day or a weekend. Many sevens tournaments have a competition for a cup, a plate, a bowl, and a shield, allowing many teams of different standards to avoid leaving empty handed.

Sevens tournaments are traditionally known for having more of a relaxed atmosphere than fifteen-a-side games, and are often known as "festivals". As The Encyclopedia of Rugby Union Football (1976) puts it, they gained their "popularity as an end of season diversion from the dourer and sterner stuff that provides the bulk of a normal season's watching."[4]

Fans frequently attend in fancy dress, and entertainment is put on for them.

The Hong Kong Sevens tournament has been especially important in popularising the game in Asia, and rugby sevens has been important as a form of international rugby "evangelism", hence is perhaps the most widely played form of the game, with tournaments in places as far apart as Bogota and Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kenya, Singapore and Scandinavia, as well as the countries in which rugby union is well known.[5]

Playing areaEdit

Sevens is played on a standard rugby union playing field as defined in the International Rugby Board's handbook. The field measures up to Template:Convert long and Template:Convert wide.[6][7] On each goal line are H-shaped goal posts.

Teams and positionsEdit

Teams are composed of three forwards and four backs. Scrums are composed of three players from each team. Because of the speedy nature of the game, sevens players are often backs or loose forwards in fifteens rugby.

Template:Rugby sevens positions Only 5 subs may be brought to a game, and only 3 subs made per game.

Variations to the Laws of the GameEdit

File:European Sevens 2008, Germany vs Georgia, scrum.jpg

There are several variations in laws which apply to Rugby Sevens,[8] primarily to speed up the game and to account for the reduced number of players. The main changes can be summarised as follows:

  • Seven players per team on field (instead of 15).
  • Five substitutes, with only three interchanges (instead of 7 and 7).
  • Seven minute halves, though ten minute halves are allowed in the final of a competition (instead of forty minute halves).
  • One minute half-time, two minutes in finals (instead of ten minutes).
  • Matches drawn after regulation are continued into Extra Time, in 5-minute periods.
  • All conversion attempts must be drop-kicked (instead of having the option to place-kick).
  • Conversions must be taken within 40 seconds of scoring a try (instead of 60 seconds).
  • Three player scrums (instead of eight players).
  • Kick-offs: in sevens, the team which has just scored kicks off, rather than the conceding team, as in fifteen-a-side.
  • Yellow cards net a 2-minute suspension (instead of 10 minutes).
    • Suspensions are more severe in Sevens than in Fifteens. The team plays a man down for 1/7 of the match instead of 1/8, and losing 1 man out of 7 opens up more space than 1 man out of 15.
  • Referees decide on advantage quickly (where one play usually ends advantage, not true in fifteens).
  • In major competitions, there are additional officials present (in-goal touch judges) to judge success of kicks at goals and hence the game is not delayed waiting for touch judges to move into position to judge conversion attempts.


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Scottish beginningsEdit

Rugby sevens was initially conceived in 1883 by Ned Haig and David Sanderson, who were butchers from Melrose, Scotland as a fund-raising event for their local club, Melrose RFC. The first ever sevens match was played at the Greenyards, the Melrose ground, 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.[9]

Despite sevens' popularity in the Borders, it did not catch on elsewhere until the 1920s and 30s.[10] The first sevens tournament outside Scotland was the Percy Park Sevens at North Shields in north east England in 1921.[9] Because it was near from the Scottish Borders, it attracted interest from the code's birthplace, and the final was contested between Selkirk (who won) and Melrose RFC (who were runners up).[9]

In 1926, England's major tournament, the Middlesex Sevens was set up by Dr J.A. Russell-Cargill, a London based Scot.[9] One of the key events in the spread of sevens to England was the Middlesex Sevens, which had some formidable figures on its subcommittee such as Wavell Wakefield and Bill Ramsay.[10] The Middlesex Sevens were also a great fundraiser for charity, and in 1926, they raised £1,600 for King Edward VII Hospital, at a time when standard admission was a shilling, and stand seats cost five shillings.[10]

A 1927 description of the game at the Middlesex Sevens (also for King Edward Hospital) gives an idea of the novelty of the game to English people:

"You see the field is so open that if a man gets away with the ball a full sized gallop is required to catch him and very often it... wasn't there."[11]

Whereas the Scottish Borders were a rural area, the Middlesex Sevens were near the suburbs of London which was home to millions. 10,000 spectators attended the second Middlesex tournament.[11] And while the Border Sevens had honed the skills of players in the Scottish rugby heartland, the Middlesex Sevens did likewise for London rugby, with locally based players such as the aforementioned Wavell Wakefield, Carl Aarvold (later Recorder of the City of London) of Blackheath FC, Wick Powell of London Welsh RFC, and John Tallent, who would later become chairman of the Four Home Unions Tours Committee.[10] They rubbed shoulders with various invitation sides such as Sale RFC in 1936, which included such players as Wilf Wooller and Claude Davey of Template:Nrut and Ken Fyfe of Template:Nrut amongst their backs; and in 1939, Cardiff RFC, which included players such as Wilf Wooller again, and Les Spence and Wendy Davis.[10]

The first ever officially sanctioned international tournament occurred at Murrayfield as part of the "Scottish Rugby Union's Celebration of Rugby" centenary celebrations in 1973.

International developmentEdit

Due to the success of the format, the ongoing Hong Kong Sevens was launched three years later. In 1993, the Rugby World Cup Sevens, in which the Melrose Cup is contested, was launched. Three of the best known sevens competitions are the Hong Kong Sevens, Wellington Sevens, and the Dubai Sevens which now make up part of the IRB Sevens World Series.

The Scottish connection continued in the foundation of the Hong Kong Sevens in the 1970s, founded largely by expats such as "Tokkie" Smith, and in England, London Scottish RFC was strongly involved in the Middlesex Sevens from the start. The Hong Kong Sevens were ahead of their time, and an influential force in the modernisation of rugby union, for example, the Hong Kong Sevens were one of the first rugby union tournaments to attract major sponsorship, when the airline Cathay Pacific sponsored the 1976 tournament.[12] They also provided a level of cosmopolitan international competition, which tended not to exist in rugby before the first Rugby World Cup in 1987,[13] especially since Template:Nrut was not seen as one of the "Big Eight", and other than some involvement with Template:Nrut, the British Commonwealth teams tended to be notoriously clannish. By 1986, the Hong Kong Sevens were held up as a positive example to others:

"This Seven-a-Side international tournament is without a doubt the most spectacular, exotic, best organised Rugby competition of its kind in the world, and it has consistently produced the highest standard of Sevens Rugby seen anywhere.
"I was not surprised on my first visit to see quality play from the Australian, New Zealand, Fijian, and British players, but I was staggered at the amazingly high quality play produced by countries I never even knew played Rugby. South Korea and Western Samoa were every bit as good as Template:Nrut and Template:Nrut. Template:Nrut, Template:Nrut and Template:Nrut found their lack of sheer size and bulk an insuperable handicap, but against each other they displayed a range of running and handling skills which demanded unqualified praise. Template:Nrut, Template:Nrut and the Template:Nrut were inevitably outgunned by the teams from the major Rugby-playing nations but they still have a remarkably high level of skill which promises well for the future of the game.
"The week of the Hong Kong tournament allows 24 Rugby-playing nations to intermingle for several days, and the huge cross-fertilisation of ideas can only be beneficial in the long term for the emerging nations. After the first day of the play when the top eight seeded teams meet the smaller fish in a pool system, the second day is divided into three different competitions... The strength of this great tournament is that on the opening day the most famous players in the world share a pitch with unknown opponents from countries where Rugby is a minority sport... While tournaments like the Hong Kong Sevens continue to be played, Rugby administrators can be confident that the game will continue to thrive in over 100 countries worldwide."[13]

However, despite this apparent diversity, some of the same old problems which had dogged international rugby were still manifest in the Hong Kong Sevens in the 1980s – for example, in a photograph of the Hong Kong vs Bahrain game at the tournament in 1984, the teams do not appear to include anyone who is ethnically Arabian or Chinese, instead both teams are quite clearly of northern European ethnic origin.[14]

Rugby sevens continues to be popular in the Scottish Borders, where the ten most prestigious of these tournaments make up a league competition known as the "Radio Borders Kings of the Sevens".[15] In honour of the role of Melrose RFC in the creation of rugby sevens, the club was inducted along with Haig to the IRB Hall of Fame in 2008.[16]

Sevens has also taken strong root in the South Sea island nations of Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, as well as the African nation of Kenya. In many minor rugby nations, such as the case of rugby union in Poland, development has tended to concentrate on rugby sevens as a means of introducing the sport to people.[17] Rugby sevens has become popular in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, which are not so successful in the full fifteen-a-side code. In addition, seven of the 15 current "core teams" that compete in all legs of the IRB Sevens World Series represent nations that are not within the recognised top tier of the 15-man game — Fiji, Samoa, Kenya, United States, Canada, Portugal, and Spain.

Major tournamentsEdit

File:Argentina San Diego 2008 Rugby Seven-2687539363.jpg

IRB Sevens World SeriesEdit

Main article: IRB Sevens World Series

New Zealand has been by far the dominant force in the IRB World Sevens Series, winning eleven out of the 14 seasons. However, in recent years, several other teams have successfully challenged New Zealand's dominance. Fiji, long a power in sevens, were winners in 2005–06; South Africa won in 2008–09; and Samoa claimed the 2009–10 crown. Other strong contenders in recent years have included England, Australia, and Argentina, all of whom have won an event within the last three seasons.[18]

Rugby World Cup SevensEdit

Main article: Rugby World Cup Sevens

Sponsored by the IRB, and held every four years, this tournament had been the highest prize in the Sevens version of rugby union with Fiji being the most successful, having won two out of the five World Cups. However, due to the upcoming introduction of sevens to the Olympics in 2016, the Olympics is now viewed as the most high-profile rugby sevens tournament.

Summer OlympicsEdit

Main article: Rugby union at the Summer Olympics

The IOC voted in 2009 to include rugby sevens and golf on the program for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[19] The 2016 Summer Olympic program is scheduled to feature 28 sports and a total of 38 disciplines. There were two open spots for sports and initially seven sports began the bidding for inclusion in the 2016 program.

Regional tournamentsEdit

Rugby sevens has been played at each of the Commonwealth Games every four years since its first appearance at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rugby sevens is now considered a "Core" sport by the Commonwealth Games Federation, necessitating its appearance at all future games. The New Zealand team has won the gold medal on each occasion. It is one of the two male-only sports at the Commonwealth Games, the other being boxing.

Rugby sevens is also played at various multisport competitions including the Asian Games, the Pan American Games, and the Pacific Games. Rugby union was formerly played at the World Games, but this is due to cease as it is now an Olympic sport.

FIRA-AER European SevensEdit

File:European Sevens 2008, Portugal vs Romania, David Mateus tackle.jpg

2005 FIRA-AER European SevensEdit

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Portugal defeated Russia 28–26 to the Grand Final of the 2005 FIRA European Sevens in Moscow to retain the trophy they have won for the last three years. Spain won the Plate with a 25–14 win over Germany, whilst Lithuania claimed the Bowl. Portugal topped their group on day one, recording four victories and a 7–7 draw, against Italy. In Pool B, Russia delighted the home fans with five wins out of five, including a 33–7 victory over France. They followed that up on day two by defeating Italy 17–0 in the Cup semi-finals, whilst Portugal beat France 22–7.

2011 Sevens Grand Prix SeriesEdit

Template:See also

This new format of European Championship was created this year. Based on the IRB Sevens World Series, it is composed of 4 tournaments. After its final win in Bucharest, Portugal is the winner of the competition. England, for its entry in the European Championship, had a great start (victories on the two first stages in Lyon and Moscow) but finally finished second of the competition. Spain is third while Russia take the fourth place after winning in Bucharest.

Next year, Germany and Scotland will enter the competition. Romania and Moldova will be playing in Division A

Women's rugby sevensEdit

Template:See also

File:Savannah's Katie Thomen tackling Lauren "Speedy" Buslinger Raleigh Venom vs. Savannah.jpg

Women's rugby sevens has been dominated by New Zealand, with either the New Zealand team (1999–2001) or Aotearoa Maori Women's Rugby sevens team (playing as New Zealand) [4] winning the annual Hong Kong Sevens tournament from 1997 until 2007. The United States won the Hong Kong Sevens in 2008 by defeating Canada in the final (New Zealand failed to send a team).

The inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament took place in Dubai together with the men's tournament during the first weekend of March 2009. England defeated Canada 12–0 in the Bowl final while Australia edged New Zealand 15–10 in extra-time to become the first to win the Women's Rugby World Cup.

The IRB organised its first official women's sevens tournament outside of the World Cup as part of the 2011 Dubai Sevens. This was part of a plan to launch a full IRB International Women's Sevens Series for 2012–13.[20] The international series was officially christened as the IRB Women's Sevens World Series in an IRB announcement on 4 October 2012. The series, as planned, launched for the 2012–13 season and features events in Dubai, the USA, China, and the Netherlands.[21]

Women's rugby sevens was included in the IRB's successful bid to reintroduce rugby to the Olympics in 2016. It is also bidding for inclusion in the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Future concernsEdit

Although sevens has proven a commercial and competitive successTemplate:Citation needed, some within the rugby community have expressed concern that sevens is starting to become divorced from the 15-man game. One such voice is former Wales international and current pundit John Taylor, who wrote in 2010 that sevens Template:Cquote

A number of administrative issues related to differences between the structures of international rugby union and the Olympic movement remain to be sorted out before the 2016 Olympic Games.

One issue is the status of Ireland, more specifically Northern Ireland. The International Rugby Board recognises the Irish Rugby Football Union as the sport's governing body for the entire island of Ireland. By contrast, the International Olympic Committee recognises the British Olympic Association as the governing body of the UK Olympic team, which usually includes athletes from Northern Ireland which is part of the UK, while the Olympic Council of Ireland usually fields teams representing all of Ireland in case of sports organised on an all-Ireland basis. The sport's various governing bodies have not yet stated clearly whether a Northern Irish sevens player would be eligible to play for a Great British team or an Irish team, or, if good enough, would be given the choice.[22][23]

The issue of a combined British team, specifically for the 2012 Games in London, has proven highly contentious in association football, with the four Home Nations wary of any action that could undermine the separate status they currently have within FIFA. However, this issue is apparently less of a problem in rugby union. In April 2011, IRB chief executive Mike Miller endorsed the concept of a combined British sevens team for the 2016 Olympics and beyond, stating Template:Cquote

Player recordsEdit

Players in bold were active in the 2010–11 IRB Sevens World Series.

Top try-scorers (>99 tries)
Player Nationality Tries
Santiago Gomez Cora Flag of Argentina.png Argentina 230
Ben Gollings Flag of England.png England 220
Fabian Juries Flag of South Africa.png South Africa 179
Mikaele Pesamino Flag of Samoa.png Samoa 158
Uale Mai Flag of Samoa.png Samoa 136
Collins Injera Flag of Kenya.jpg Kenya 124
Nasoni Roko Flag of Fiji.png Fiji 123
Karl Te Nana Flag of New Zealand.png New Zealand 113
Humphrey Kayange Flag of Kenya.jpg Kenya 112
Amasio Valence Flag of New Zealand.png New Zealand 112
Tafai Ioasa Flag of New Zealand.png New Zealand 111
Alafoti Faosiliva Flag of Samoa.png Samoa 108
Peter Miller Flag of Australia.png Australia 107
Dave Moonlight Flag of Canada.jpg Canada 107
Richard Haughton Flag of England.png England 106
William Ryder Flag of Fiji.png Fiji 105
Marius Schoeman Flag of South Africa.png South Africa 103
Rob Thirlby Flag of England.png England 101
Zar Lawrence Flag of New Zealand.png New Zealand 100


Printed sources


  1. The Spread of the Sevens, Melrose Sevens official site, retrieved 25 February 2010
  2. Script error
  3. "2006–07 IRB Sevens World Series Media Guide" (PDF). International Rugby Board. Retrieved 10 February 2007. 
  4. Jones, p122
  5. Bath (1997), p29
  6. "Intro EN" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  7. "Intro EN" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  8. "Seven-a-side Variations: Standard Set of Variations Appropriate to the Seven-a-side Game" (PDF). International Rugby Board. Archived from the original on 15 June 2007. Retrieved 10 February 2007. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Bath, Scotland Rugby Miscellany, p82
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Starmer-Smith, p60
  11. 11.0 11.1 Grave, Charles Grave is Gay: At the Seven-a-Side Rugby Matches in Illustrated Sport and Dramatic News, 1927
  12. Starmer-Smith, p144
  13. 13.0 13.1 Starmer-Smith, p142
  14. Starmer-Smith, p146
  15. [1]
  16. Script error
  17. [2] retrieved, 7 November 2009
  18. International Rugby Board (1 June 2010). Dates set for 2010/11 IRB Sevens World Series. Press release. Retrieved on 2 June 2010.
  19. [3]
  20. International Rugby Board (14 September 2011). First IRB Women's Sevens event announced. Press release. Retrieved on 30 October 2011.
  21. International Rugby Board (4 October 2012). IRB announces Women's Sevens World Series. Press release. Retrieved on 4 October 2012.
  22. Script error
  23. Staff (22 October 2010). "Ireland finally look to take Sevens seriously ahead of Rio 2016". Sportsbeat. 

External linksEdit

Tournament sites

IRB Sevens World Series

Other Sevens tournaments

V T E National rugby union teams (sevens)
IRB Sevens core teams
Flag of Argentina.png Argentina · Flag of Australia.png Australia · Flag of Canada.jpg Canada · Flag of England.png England · Flag of Fiji.png Fiji · Flag of France.png France · Flag of Kenya.jpg Kenya · Flag of New Zealand.png New Zealand · Flag of Portugal.jpg Portugal · Flag of Samoa.png Samoa · Flag of Scotland.png Scotland · Flag of South Africa.png South Africa · Flag of Spain.jpg Spain · Flag of United States.png United States · Flag of Wales.png Wales
Other teams
Flag of American Samoa.png American Samoa · Austria · Bahamas · Bahrain · Flag of Barbados.png Barbados · Belgium · Bosnia and Herzegovina · Flag of Brazil.png Brazil · Brunei · Cayman Islands · Flag of Chile.png Chile · Flag of China.png China · Flag of Chinese Taipei.png Chinese Taipei · Flag of Cook Islands.png Cook Islands · Côte d'Ivoire · Croatia · Czech Republic · Denmark · Finland · Flag of Georgia.png Georgia · Flag of Germany.png Germany · Guam · Flag of Guyana.png Guyana · Flag of Hong Kong.png Hong Kong · Hungary · India · Indonesia · Iran · Ireland · Flag of Italy.png Italy · Flag of Jamaica.png Jamaica · Flag of Japan.png Japan · Flag of Kazakhstan.png Kazakhstan · Kyrgyzstan · Latvia · Lithuania · Luxembourg · Madagascar · Flag of Malaysia.png Malaysia · Flag of Mexico.png Mexico · Flag of Moldova.png Moldova · Monaco · Flag of Morocco.png Morocco · Flag of Namibia.png Namibia · Flag of Netherlands.png Netherlands · Flag of Niue.png Niue · Norway · Flag of Papua New Guinea.png Papua New Guinea · Flag of Philippines.png Philippines · Poland · Flag of Romania.png Romania · Qatar · Flag of Russia.png Russia · Rwanda · Serbia · Flag of Singapore.png Singapore · Flag of South Korea.png South Korea · Flag of Sri Lanka.png Sri Lanka · Swaziland · Sweden · Switzerland · Flag of Tahiti.png Tahiti · Flag of Thailand.png Thailand · Flag of Tonga.jpg Tonga · Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.png Trinidad and Tobago · Flag of Tunisia.png Tunisia · Flag of Uganda.png Uganda · Flag of Ukraine.png Ukraine · Flag of United Arab Emirates.png United Arab Emirates · Flag of Uruguay.png Uruguay · Uzbekistan · Flag of West Indies.png West Indies · Zambia · Flag of Zimbabwe.png Zimbabwe
Former teams
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Arabian Gulf

Template:Women's national rugby union sevens teams

V T E IRB Sevens World Series
2013-14 events 2013 Gold Coast Sevens | 2013 Dubai Sevens | 2013 South Africa Sevens | 2014 USA Sevens | 2014 Wellington Sevens | 2014 Japan Sevens | 2014 Hong Kong Sevens | 2014 Scotland Sevens | 2014 London Sevens
Current Stadiums Robina Stadium | The Sevens | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | Sam Boyd Stadium | Westpac Stadium | Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium | Hong Kong Stadium | Scotstoun Stadium | Twickenham Stadium
Former events Paris Sevens | Singapore Sevens | Shanghai Sevens | Tokyo Sevens | Mar Del Plata Sevens | Punta Del Este Sevens | Kuala Lumpur Sevens | Fiji Sevens
Seasons 1999-00 | 2000-01 | 2001-02 | 2002-03 | 2003-04 | 2004-05 | 2005-06 | 2006-07 | 2007-08 | 2008-09 | 2009-10 | 2010-11 | 2011-12 | 2012-13 | 2013-14