The concept of seven-a-side Rugby was first born in the sleepy Scottish town of Melrose in 1883 where, an internal Rugby club dispute resulted in a split between the playing group. As the tale goes, neither the new or old club had enough players to field a 15-man team, so it was decided a seven-a-side match would go ahead instead.
With players enjoying extra space to work in, individual flare and fancy footwork gave life to a new version of running Rugby where more tries were scored and skill, timing and agility were key.
The fans soon took to the spectator-friendly sport, much like new cricket fans sit alongside the traditional Test match supporters at the popular hit-a-minute Twenty20 fixture.
A carnival of Rugby - with non-stop action on and away from the field - appealed largely to the expat community and the tournament grew steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Sevens, with seven players on a team, playing seven minute halves across a weekend of non-stop high-octane competition, soon took off - not only in terms of the number of spectators coming to the event - but also the number of club and international teams the tournament was attracting.
By 1982, the sport outgrew its original home at the Hong Kong Football Club and was relocated to the larger Hong Kong Stadium and as ticket demands regularly outstretched its capacity by the early 1990s, the stadium was rebuilt in 1994 as the majestic 40,000-seat ground it is today.
Taking pride of place on the Sevens calendar, Hong Kong’s turf has played host to a myriad of Rugby greats including the famed Ella brothers in the 1980s and Jonah Lomu and George Gregan in the 90s while handfuls of up-and-coming stars turn out at the “Jewel in the Sevens Crown” each year to try their hand on the world stage
1993 saw the advent of the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Scotland, where the sport was first played, and since then the event has taken place every four years - in Hong Kong, Argentina, Hong Kong and Dubai respectively.
Pacific Island heavyweights Fiji have claimed the title twice while and England, New Zealand and Wales have also been crowned World Champions.
While Australia is yet to claim the World Cup in the men’s competition, the Australian Women’s Sevens team beat all-comers to claim the inaugural Women’s Sevens World Cup in Dubai in 2009.
Rugby Sevens gained a further boost in stature when it was introduced to the Commonwealth Games in 1998, prior to the IRB recognising the true value of the game and launching its first World Sevens Series in 1999/2000
Adopting a naming-rights sponsor in 2011, the HSBC Sevens World Series now boasts a core of 16 of the world’s top teams which compete in tournaments across the globe.
New Zealand has claimed the Sevens World Series on eight occasions since its inception with Fiji, South Africa and Samoa the only other winners. Australia has never won a title, however has featured in the top three in three of the 11 seasons - 1999/00, 2000/01 and 2009/10.
Sevens Rugby will only keep on building as the sport now enjoys Olympic status and is set to make its first appearance on the playing roster, in the men’s and women’s competitions, in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
16 MAY 2013
14 MAY 2013