Rugby sevens is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players, instead of the usual 15, with shorter matches. While a regular rugby union match lasts at least 80 minutes, a normal sevens match consists of two halves of seven minutes with a one-minute half-time break. Sevens scores are generally comparable to regular rugby scores; scoring occurs much more frequently in sevens, since the defenders are more spaced out.
Rugby sevens is administered by the International Rugby Board (IRB), the body responsible for rugby union worldwide. The game originated in Melrose where a local butcher in 1883 wanted a format that could host a tournament in one day. The game is popular at all levels, with amateur and club tournaments generally held in the summer months. Sevens is one of the most well distributed forms of rugby, and is popular in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and especially in the South Pacific. Rugby sevens is now recognised as an Olympic sport and will make its debut in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Sevens tournaments are traditionally known for having more of a relaxed atmosphere than fifteen-a-side games, and are often known as “festivals”. Fans frequently attend in fancy dress, and entertainment is put on for them.
The Hong Kong Sevens tournament has been especially important in popularising the game in Asia, and rugby sevens has been important as a form of international rugby “evangelism”, hence is perhaps the most widely played form of the game, with tournaments in places as far apart as Bogota and Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kenya, Singapore and Scandinavia, as well as the countries in which rugby union is well known.