An introduction to Rugby sevens

The seven-man variant of rugby union

Rugby sevens is a seven-a-side variant of rugby union. Played on the standard rugby pitch, but with far less than the usual 15 players in a full union match, sevens rugby is a free-flowing game based on pace and power over the course of its short matches.

The game has grown in popularity to the extent that it now has been granted full Olympic status and will make its debut at the 2016 Olympic Games. It has also had a presence at Commonwealth Games since 1998, and there are several big international competitions including the IRB Sevens World Series and the Rugby World Cup Sevens to place it in the public eye.

Playing rugby sevens

A regular sevens match usually consists of two halves of seven minutes with a one-minute half-time break (this is sometimes changed to two 10-minute halves with a 2-minute break for finals). The shortness of games enables plenty of matches to be played during the course of a tournament so that it can usually be completed in a day or a weekend.

Teams consist of three forwards and four backs (including one scrum-half), meaning that there is plenty of opportunity for the ball runners and play makers to really to show off their skills. Five substitutes are named although only three subs are allowed to be made during the course of the game.

Rugby sevens is a full contact sport, although the players have their work cut out to try and cover the ground and keep putting in those tackles. Good sevens players are often backs or loose forwards in 15s rugby because they need to be extremely mobile to keep up with the end-to-end attacking nature of the game.

The scoring system remains the same as the standard 15-a-side game, with 5 points for a try, 3 for both penalties and drop goals and 2 for a conversion.

Rugby sevens rules

The rules of the sevens are very similar to the full rugby union game aside from some of the following:

  • There are no drawn matches. Matches that finish all-square go in to extra time, with 5-minute played until one of the teams scores a try.
  • Only three players from each side contest the scrum. Lineouts take place involving two and sometimes three players.
  • All conversion attempts must be drop-kicked (not place-kicked) and taken within 40 seconds of the try being scored.
  • Unlike 15-a-side, the team that has just scored kicks off, rather than the conceding team. This gives the side that has just conceded opportunity to gain possession of the ball and start an attack.
  • A yellow card results in a 2-minute suspension.

All these changes are intended to make the game fast moving and freer flowing than the 15-a-side game. Players barely have time to catch their breath between attacks so it would be fair to say that sevens players would probably have to be pretty good at the bleep test!

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