Lucky Number Sevens

Rugby Poster France 1924IN 1924, the U.S beat France at home in front of a crowd of 50,000 people to win the Gold Medal in Rugby Union. Less than a week later the I.O.C decided that they did not have the money to fund as many sporting events and one of the sports they cut was Rugby. Without the needed pressure to push forward in international competition, Rugby quickly and quietly faded to the back of the American sports conscience.

Jump ahead to October 9, 2009. The I.O.C has now voted that Rugby 7’s (a smaller, faster version of full Rugby XV’s) is going to be an official game at the 2016 Olympics. The decision has fundamentally changed the way U.S Rugby has been using their time and resources. As most in the U.S Olympic Federation had known this was going to happen for about 5-6 years, they had already made shifts that would make 7’s the spearhead of U.S Rugby. The largest of these efforts was in bringing a stop on the Sevens World Series to the U.S. Starting in 2004 in Los Angeles, but is now held in Las Vegas, The U.S Seven World Series stop is one of the most attended stops in the Northern Hemisphere. U.S Rugby also started to shift promising players on the national XV’s team to training in speed, or asking them to convert positions so that the team could make its XV starts to a full Sevens team smoothly. The Federation has also brought over coaches from New Zealand, France, and Ireland to help push the development in players to that of Sevens.

U.S Seven's winger Carlin Isles is known as the fastest Rugby player currently.

U.S Seven’s winger Carlin Isles is known as the fastest Rugby player currently in the World.

However, even with all these changes the U.S Rugby scene still has a long way to go before it is relevant. But Sevens can change this. Sevens is played on an 100 meter long, 70 meter wide field with seven players per team, and with 2 halves made of seven minutes each. Because the field is the same length as a regular Rugby field but with less players, speed becomes the dominate trait that players must possess. Much like the exciting, if overrated offenses of Oregon, this reliance on speed can lead to huge scores. Just to give an example, the U.S beat Australia 45-22 in the London Sevens World Series (and this win won them entrance into Rio 2016, pretty cool right?).

Because of the attractive offensive showings, Sevens is being pushed out into the public sphere very sharply by NBC. In 2011, NBC showed the very first College Rugby Seven’s Championship and this partnership lead them to cover the Seven World Series stops, and also the Rugby World Cup. NBC sees the potential that Rugby Sevens has in the U.S. If you look at Rugby Sevens, it plays into the American want for high explosive sports as enjoyable entertainment. First, the games are short (about 20 minutes with both halves and half time) so you can either watch a ton of them at once or you can just catch a game casually. There is no way around it that Sevens is a high scoring game. You are not going to see a game go 0-0 or even 0-7. Both teams are most likely going to be in the double digits at the end of the game. And the final reason American’s will love Seven’s is it is literally Gridiron football if it was only red zone situations and break aways. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

With the U.S Olympic Federation so geared for success in all the sports that U.S athletes take part in, I feel that the U.S will succeed on the field in Rugby Sevens. From this success will most likely come more and more people talking about and interacting with the game. We still have a long way to go till we see if Sevens can become all that it promises off the field.

If you’re interested in Rugby and its going-ons, the U.S first game of the Rugby XV’s World Cup is this Sunday September 20th at 7 a.m on the Universal Sports Network for free.

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