Rugby purists, for whom the 15-a-side game means everything, might be surprised, and a bit upset, to discover that Rugby Sevens might be the best way to present rugby to a larger, world-wide audience, and thereby save the game from falling into the alluring “schoolboy charm” that has kept rugby going, but not allowed it to expand in developing markets.
Rugby sevens can spread the sport faster because in most national teams can get 12 players together and start working on the core of a pretty good sevens team faster than getting 30-45 players for a “full game” that they will not be able to compete in anyway.
(I know 12 players means there’s not much depth to go a complete IRB Sevens Tournament, but nations can pick and choose their spots to compete in the first few years).
Rugby sevens is an incredibly exciting game, speaking as a fan of this type of rugby and as someone who loved to play sevens (again, about 65 pounds and two knee injuries ago). And, let’s be honest here, there is a lot more scoring in sevens rugby tournament than there is in most 15-a-side rugby matches. (unless you’re New Zealand playing Japan in the 1995 World Cup.
Sevens give nations that would not be able to compete in an 80-minute game of “real rugby,” like surprise sevens upstarts Kenya, sevens stars Fiji, current World Sevens Champions Western Samoa, 2009 World Sevens Champions Wales, and even the U.S. to a lesser scale, a chance to be competitive with more entrenched rugby nations, such as England, France, and even rugby powerhouse New Zealand. (These top tier rugby nations still tend to win the majority of the IRB Sevens matches, but if planned out right
Rugby sevens was selected to be in the 2016 Olympics in England, and one reason it was picked (in my opinion) was that instead of 15-a-side rugby, sevens allows these additional nations to be competitive. (Hey, even the U.S. – current Olympic Rugby champions – can make the time to prepare a top-flight team).
Now if this is carried on to a logical conclusion, sevens should be pushed much more in the developing rugby nations, with the inclusion and additional marketing of the Sevens World Cup, to allow Nations a real chance to compete with the powers of the rugby universe. While most top tier rugby teams still focus on 15-a-side first and seven second, smaller nations can dedicate the time to reverse those and have a better showing in the London Olympics.