As a build up to its Olympic debut in Rio 2016, the Commonwealth games will once again play host to the ever growing sport of Rugby 7s. The sport first took place in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumper when New Zealand took the gold medal. In fact, the Kiwis are the only side to ever win Commonwealth rugby gold. This year’s Commonwealth games will feature not only those who star every week in the World Series 7s, but also those who ply their trade in the traditional 15 a side format of the game. But what is Rugby 7s, and why is it becoming so popular?
Sports historian Jack Pollard describes Rugby 7s as ‘unpredictable tests of stamina, ball-handling expertise and blistering pace.’ It is these characteristics that have shot Rugby 7s to prominence in the last 15 to 20 years. The sport was founded way back in 1883 at Melrose Rugby Club in Scotland. Many other tournaments were played worldwide but it wasn’t until 1993 that the first World Cup 7s tournament took place, where England beat Australia in the final. 6 years later saw the inaugural World Series. This is where teams traverse the globe visiting places like Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Tokyo as they battle it out to win the overall title. Each half is 7 minutes long which allows for quick fire rugby, great pieces of skill and superb tries. It is the pace and skill of the game which attracts more people to the sport year on year. Rugby 7s also gives lesser rugby nations to put themselves on the map. Kenya have a very strong squad whilst Canada reached their first World Series final earlier this year. These countries use the development of their 7s squad to create a full 15 a side team
Some of the world’s best players have made it in the 15 a side game via Rugby 7s. Previous Commonwealth games have seen players such as England World Cup winner Josh Lewsey star. Other players include current New Zealand stars Ben Smith, Cory Jane and Liam Messam and the famous Jonah Lomu. This year, we will also see some imports from the 15 a side game. British and Irish Lions star Stuart Hogg will link up with the Scotland squad and the Queensland Reds flanker Liam Gill will join the Australia squad. However, many teams such as New Zealand and England will stick with the same squad that has served them well in the World Series.
So who the favorites to take gold in Glasgow? All eyes look straight to New Zealand as they have won all previous Commonwealth golds, they are current World Champions and in May they won their 12th series title in 15 attempts. But England, Australia and South Africa will prove stern tests to the Kiwi crown and the inclusion of Stuart Hogg and Sean Lamont for Scotland will boost their hopes. One thing is for sure. We will see a fast, explosive and highly skillful two days of rugby at Ibrox.