While Rugby 7’s has only been a Commonwealth Games sport since Kuala Lumpur 1998, Scotland has contributed massively to the growth of the format and has been a key component in the World Sevens Series since its inception in 1999. To round off our ‘Celebrating Our Past, Building Our Future’ Sport Focus, here are 12 things you might not know about the sport:
1. The game of Rugby 7s was originally conceived in Melrose in the Scottish Borders in 1883 by two butchers, Ned Haig and David Sanderson. Melrose, a fine historic rugby club was experiencing serious financial difficulties and proposed a sports gala to raise funds. Worried about the financial outlay of a 15-a-side Tournament, Haig and Sanderson proposed the format of halving the teams and shortening the length of playing time. The tournament proved to be a great success, and little did they know how popular their creation would prove to be.
2. Rugby 7s made its Commonwealth Games debut at Kuala Lumpur 1998 with a men’s tournament, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that Women’s 7s was first introduced at Gold Coast 2018.
3. The New Zealand men’s team have claimed five of six Commonwealth Games gold medals available since 1998, their only blemish being at Glasgow 2014 when they were defeated 17 – 12 in the final by South Africa. New Zealand’s Women’s 7s team continued the nation’s trend of dominance by winning the inaugural tournament at Gold Coast 2018, defeating Australia 17 – 12.
4. Rugby 7s was adopted into the Olympic Games programme for the first time at Rio 2016, Rugby’s first inclusion in the Games since Rugby Union was dropped from the programme after 1924. Fiji won the men’s competition, demolishing Team GB 43 – 7 to win their first ever Olympic Medal. The women’s competition was won by Australia who beat New Zealand 24 – 17 in the final.
5. The first Rugby World Cup 7s was held in Scotland in 1993 when England were victorious. A women’s tournament was added in 2009. The winners of the men’s tournament are awarded the Melrose Cup, in honour of the town where the first Rugby 7s game was played.
6. In Rugby 7s the ball is in play for 53% of the time according to statistics produced by World Rugby, the highest percentage of any form of Rugby Union. That’s equivalent to 7 minutes and 24 seconds per standard 14-minute match.
7. England Back-rower Lawrence Dallaglio is the only player to have played in World Cup finals in both formats of Rugby Union. He was a key member of the England 7s side who defeated Australia 21- 17 to win the first ever World Cup 7s Title in Edinburgh. He was also an important player when England’s test team defeated the same opponents 20 – 17 in the 2003 World Cup Final in Sydney.
8. Traditionally, 15-a-side rugby benefits from the cream of the crop and the biggest stars. However, legends and rising stars of the game alike have used 7s as an experience to progress and expand their careers. Jonah Lomu, Stuart Hogg, David Campese, Sonny Bill Williams, Shane Williams, Chester Williams and Cheslin Kolbe, to name just a few, are superstars to have played both formats.
9. The sport has typically been dominated by Southern hemisphere teams at the Commonwealth Games with 18 of the 21 medals available being won by four southern-hemisphere nations: New Zealand (7), Fiji (4), Australia (4), and South Africa (3). England are the only non-Southern hemisphere nation to ever claim a Commonwealth medal with their notable haul of three.
10. New Zealand, Australia, England, Canada, South Africa, Kenya, Wales and Sri Lanka are the only nations to participate in Rugby 7s in every Commonwealth Games.
11. Scotland’s most capped 7s player is Scott Riddell with an astonishing 333 caps. Scotland’s top scorer in World 7s Series history is former stalwart and captain Colin Gregor with 1345 points.
12. Scotland men’s best ever finish at the Commonwealth Games was 6th place at both Delhi 2010 and Gold Coast 2018. Scotland’s women are yet to make an appearance at the Games but will hope to make their debut at Birmingham 2022.