The HSBC Sevens World Series is international rugby's only Grand Prix-style event and Saturday’s tournament at Twickenham is one of eight tournaments played between December and June, across the world (South Africa, Dubai, New Zealand, the USA, Hong Kong, Australia and Scotland). Rugby Sevens is, of course, a seven-a-side variant of the usual 15-player rugby union game – where the matches are 14 instead of 80 minutes long. The HSBC Sevens World Series is one of the most notable of the Sevens competitions – the format has even been played at four Commonwealth Games (1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010), where New Zealand have won every time! Rugby Sevens is now even an Olympic event – but will not be implemented until the 2016 Games in Brazil.
The laws of Rugby Sevens follow closely to the 15-player game, on a field of the same size. The differences being the timing, as aforementioned – where halves are seven minutes long, and 10-minutes long for the World Series cup final. This is what allows so many teams to compete over the course of a day or a weekend – as is happening at Twickenham on the 12/13th May 2012.
An entertaining part of the Sevens game is that they are usually high scoring, as the spacing on the field makes it harder to fill-up an impenetrable defence line-up. This also aids to the relaxed atmosphere generated at Sevens World Series weekends – that are even considered to have a somewhat ‘festival’ vibe. They are a welcome light reprieve from the sterner competitions offered earlier in the season.
Some of the other law variations include: having five substitutes, with only three interchanges (instead of 7 and 7). 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) – and conversions must be taken within 40 seconds of scoring a try (instead of 60 seconds). The scrums contain just three players instead of eight! Kick-offs are offered to the team that has just scored kicks off, rather than the conceding team. If a player receives a yellow card, they’re suspended for 2-minutes and not 10 – which actually reflects a more severe punishment to the fifteens, as the man is out for 1/7 instead of 1/8 of the game – plus the absence of one man in a seven-a-side is far more debilitating than a man missing from a 15-a-side.
There were 24 games played on Saturday at Twickenham, from 10.30am to 7:28pm kick-offs. That’s 16 teams competing in one day! Fiji, Spain, Wales, Zimbabwe, Australia, Scotland, South Africa, Portugal, New Zealand, Russia, Argentina, Kenya, England (of course), France, Samoa, and the USA.
Day Two, on Sunday 13 May 2012, sees the victorius teams compete in quarter, semi and final games for a ‘Bowl’, a ‘Cup’, a ‘Shield’ and a ‘Plate’! Phew, plenty of silverware on offer. So what did the rugby festival-goers think of their day of back-to-bag ruggers?