Rugby in the Olympics: What is Sevens?

Skill, Speed and Success

  • Rugby Sevens is a game of speed, skill and strength
  • It is played by Rugby’s fastest and fittest athletes – men and women
  • A Rugby Sevens tournament is played over two or three days with a new match every 20 minutes and is ideal for broadcasters and spectators
  • An Olympic Rugby Sevens competition could be played in an existing stadium with minimal staging costs
  • Rugby Sevens has already proven a successful addition at major multi-sport events such as the World, Commonwealth and Asian Games
Passion and youth
  • Rugby Sevens has a truly global fanbase
  • Rugby Sevens tournaments have an energetic, friendly, passionate and youthful atmosphere
  • Rugby’s loyal fans travel all over the world to follow Sevens tournaments
  • Approximately 500,000 spectators attend the HSBC Sevens World Series each season
  • These fans will support Rugby Sevens in the Olympic Games – and stay on to enjoy all that the world’s greatest sporting celebration has to offer
A Sport for All
  • Rugby Sevens is played at the highest level by both men and women
  • Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 saw the men’s and women’s competitions played side-by-side
  • Australian Cheryl Soon became the first woman captain to lift the Rugby World Cup Sevens trophy
  • Captain Humphrey Kayange led Kenya to a record finish as his team reached the semi-finals of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009
Medal opportunities for more nations
  • Rugby Sevens in the Olympic Games would mean more medal chances for more nations
  • Fiji won the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2005 with Waisale Serevi as captain
  • Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 was a showcase for emerging global talent
  • Teams from Zimbabwe, Brazil, the Philippines and Portugal have shown that they are capable of competing against the best in the world

Commercial Success
  • Rugby Sevens enjoys high levels of commercial success
  • Rugby Sevens at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is expected to sell approximately 190,000 tickets across all sessions at Ibrox Stadium
  • Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow broadcast to 321 million homes (more than double RWC Sevens 2009) in 152 territories (up 11 on 2009) through 29 international broadcasters in 19 languages
  • The annual HSBC Sevens World Series attracts 500,000 spectators approx. in stadia with many more watching at home and online
  • Rugby Sevens has attracted well known sponsors and commercial partners including HSBC, Emirates, Marriott and AIG among others

The Sevens story

The Sevens game originated in the Borders of Scotland where Ned Haig, a butcher from Melrose, had the idea of playing an abbreviated form of the game in order to raise much needed funds for his club.

The first Melrose Sevens was held at the famous Greenyards ground in 1883 after which the game quickly spread throughout the Borders and far beyond. Today, tournaments are held in almost all countries in membership of the IRB.

The biggest Sevens event in the world is the Rosslyn Park Schools Tournament which annually attracts over 3,000 schoolchildren from all over the world.

The first officially sanctioned International Tournament was held at Murrayfield in 1973 as part of the Scottish Rugby Union's centenary celebrations and three years later the Hong Kong Sevens was spectacularly launched.

The establishment of Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993 was the inevitable consequence of the game's global expansion and the tournament has been a driving force for Sevens’ global outreach. The competition broke new ground in 2009 combining a 16-team women’s competition alongside the 24-team men’s competition, showcasing the increasing strength of Women’s Sevens on the world stage.

It was a format that was successfully repeated in Moscow 2013 with the IRB subsequently announcing that the next event would move to 2018 to sit within the middle of the Olympic cycle, providing the 40 participating teams with the optimum competition platform in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Since the creation of the Sevens World Series by the IRB in 1999, the grand-prix style event has introduced the game into many new territories, in stadia, on television and online across all 5 continents with over 55 countries participating in the SWS since its inception. It has been a stage for great entertainment, drama and incredible feats of skill with the likes of Kenya, Fiji, Samoa, Canada and Portugal mixing it with New Zealand, South Africa and England.

A winning recipe for fans, broadcasters and sponsors, the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series accumulated over 4,500 hours of total airtime across 149 territories, a record television audience. Only eight years ago, that total airtime figure stood at just 300 hours.

It provides magnificent entertainment which accounts for its enormous spectator appeal. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the five sessions of Sevens attracted 130,000 spectators, second only to the numbers watching the athletics. A single-day record crowd of 74,969 watched Round 9, Day 1, of the HSBC Sevens World Series 2013/14 in Twickenham in May 2014.

Rugby's promise to deliver the world's best teams and top players to the Olympics has also been confirmed by leading exponents of the present day game - Lawrence Dallaglio, Josh Lewsey (England), George Gregan (Australia), Jonah Lomu, Joe Rokocoko (New Zealand), Olivier Magne (France), Agustin Pichot (Argentina), Waisale Serevi (Fiji), Bobby Skinstad, Brent Russell (South Africa) and Keith Wood (Ireland) - who are unanimously of the view that Olympic participation would represent the peak of Rugby achievement for the world's top players.

The growth in Rugby’s appeal coupled with concerted efforts to maximise the benefits of Olympic inclusion has enabled the Game to develop at all levels and formats – Fifteens, Sevens, Beach, Tag and Touch Rugby. Unions are leveraging additional resources and building capacity and competitiveness.

The global standard has been lifted dramatically in a game where only the fastest, the fittest and, above all, the most skilful can survive. Any deficiencies are quickly exposed and there is no hiding place which all contributes to making the Rugby Sevens format exhilarating and challenging to play and spectacular to watch.

For the latest Rugby Sevens news, click HERE for IRBSevens.com


Player Quotes of Support

“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.”  – Shane Williams, Wales

“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England

“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand


IRB Sevens
RWC Sevens 2013
Rugby and the Olympics Games
Anti Doping
World Food Programme - Tackle Hunger
SOS Kit Aid
International Rugby Board  | Disclaimer | Cookies Policy | Privacy Policy | Help | Contact Us