What are the most important rugby tournaments ?
The top and most prestigious competition is the Rugby World Cup which takes place every 4 years. The first RWC competition was back in 1987 with N. Zealand and Australia the host countries. The next host nation is France for the tenth edition in 2023. The southern hemisphere teams dominate the RWC with N. Zealand and S. Africa crowned world champions 3 times each and Australia twice. The first northern hemisphere team to win the world cup was England in 2003 with Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop kick goal in the last few seconds of the final, however, France and England have been losing finalists 3 times each in the final. The RWC trophy is called the William Webb Ellis Cup in honour of the man accredited with inventing the modern game of rugby in 1823. The European cup competition, Guinness 6 Nations, which is an annual tournament that sees England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy competing to win by a Grand Slam, that is, not losing a single match of the 5 games played. As tradition has it the team arriving in last place collects the Wooden Spoon. There are additional trophies awarded within the 6 Nations tournament and the ENG v SCO game features the Calcutta Cup which is one of the world’s oldest trophies to win, it started in 1897 and as the name suggests in India of the colonial days and British Empire. The Centenary Quaich given to the winner of the IRE v SCO match, a quaich is a Gaelic drinking cup and introduced in 1989 and the Viking helmet shaped Millennium Trophy to win in the IRE v ENG game initiated in 1988. The game winner of FRA v ITA takes home the Guiseppe Garibaldi Trophy this award began in 2007 in honour of this Italo-French hero and the Auld Alliance Cup between FRA v SCO instituted in 2018 to commemorate the respective countries rugby players lost in the First World War. The final trophy to win apart from the main tournament one is the Triple Crown Trophy which goes to one of the 4 home nations of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England that defeats the other 3 teams. In 1996 the Women’s 6 Nations commenced but originally had Spain in the tournament according to the rankings, however, Italy replaced Spain in 2007 and in 2008 the 6 Nations U.20s was inaugurated, all 3 tournaments, men, woman and U.20 6 Nations have the same countries represented. A similar tournament but involving the southern hemisphere teams which began in 1996 is the Tri-Nations Cup which saw S. Africa, Australia and New Zealand competing against each other but when Argentina joined the competition 2012 the tournament became known as the Rugby Championship Trophy.
Rugby Union matches have 2 teams of 15 players but in recent modern times Rugby 7s has grown in popularity with several major competitions created at all levels from amateur to professional to international levels and becoming a fixed evet in the Olympics. In 7s the regulation size 15s pitch is used which creates a different style of play in the sense that the big, heavy set forwards are not required as much but strong runners with a lot of stamina as covering a standard sized rugby field in 7 players can drain your energy in minutes which is why the game is played with 7 minute halves as opposed to 40 minute halves in 15s. Incredibly, 7s has been played since 1883, a Scottish butcher raising money for his local team, Melrose RFC, introduced the 7s formation which is still played today as a once a year Melrose 7s Tournament being the oldest one on record in the world. The 1970s saw another huge step in the popularity of rugby 7s with the inception of the Hong Kong 7s Tournament which attracted international sponsors and improve its appeal. Since then the short sided or 7s format has reached full international recognition and most rugby governing bodies regulate the sport with some very big international sponsors participating adding to its commercial success. The Dubai 7s also began in the 70s and today sees the world’s top players and teams competing for the men and women, youth section and an extra event of a netball tournament with over 100,000 people attending. The World Rugby Sevens Series Tournament has been held in Dubai since 1999 along with the Women’s World Sevens Series from 2012. The Rugby World Cup 7s competition which is organised by the same organisation as the 15s version and held every 4 years commenced in 1993 in Scotland for the men and 2009 for the women’s tournament. The next RWC7s will take place in Cape Town, S. Africa in 2022 with 24 men’s teams and 16 women’s competing for the 7s title and cup called the Melrose Cup in honour of the original founders of rugby 7s.
What positions are included in rugby 7s ?
N.1 – Prop, a tall strong athletic type person rather than bulky as in 15s rugby
N.2 – Hooker, strong athletic type person rather than bulky as in 15s rugby
N.3 - Prop, a tall strong athletic type person rather than bulky as in 15s rugby
N.4 – Scrum-half, as in 15s quick and nimble
N.5 – Fly-half, a tactical runner with plenty of stamina
N.6 – Centre, a tactical runner with plenty of stamina
N.7 – Wing, usually the fastest person on the field
What are the rules for rugby 7s ?
- A scrum in 7s consists of 3 players in a row only as 7s is based on a running game rather than forwards pushing with the ball. There are lineouts with the 3 forwards plus one player who throws the ball in. The ball can kicked forward but only passed backwards as in 15s.
- Different to 15s the team that scored kicks off in 7s.
- When a try is scored the conversion kick is no longer a place kick as in 15s but a drop goal kick instead and within 30 seconds. This way the game keeps its momentum as each half is only 7 but gruelling minutes.
- Only 5 replacements can be used, a player can come off and go back on during the game if it was a blood injury.
- As in 15s the point scoring is identical except for penalties where the placed kick is eliminated in 7s, 5 points for a try, 2 points for a conversion but drop kick style.
- A Yellow Card infringement means a player is sin-binned for 2 minutes and a Red Card is an early shower as the term goes and the team is less one player.
- There are the 2 side-line referees and on field referee plus additional try zone referees to validate the conversion kicks and not slow the game time down.
- 7s like 15s is a full contact sport.
- In the event of a draw at full time the golden point rule is applied to adjudge the winning team. So, the first team to score in extra time wins and the game finishes.
The pace of the 7s game is extremely high and being able to sustain running and passing throughout the 7 minutes of each half is fundamental in winning which is why the so called forwards are actually quite athletic in stature as opposed to their counterparts in rugby 15s.
Rugby 7s and the traditional 15s are forever popular at all levels of playing the game but in the summer months or off season period you can see other formats being played. One of the fastest growing amateur competitions is the Krakow Rugby Festival 10s Tournament for men and 7s women. The 10 player union format widens the choice of player formation as the scrum has 5 players in it. A lot of teams find this format more appealing for everyone in the end of season tour rather than 7s or a single 15s match. Also, the London Rugby League 9s Tournament, rugby league rules differ from rugby union as when a player is tackled he must stand up and roll the ball back with his foot to a team member behind him.
Rugby League and Rugby Union
Rugby League was formed way back in 1895 in England,
a number of rugby union teams from the north of England broke away from the
then Rugby Football Union as they wanted to turn professional and be compensated
for playing as many players had to hold down their jobs for income. Rugby Union
turned professional in 1995 whereas Rugby League did it a 100 years earlier and
mainly in the north of England. RL then introduced new rules as with the
tackling action and abolished lineouts for 6 player scrums, reduced the number
of players to 13 and spectators had to pay to watch games. RL became successful
and by 1905 there were over 200 clubs playing the rugby league rules on a
professional basis. The RL game also spread around the world like the RU game
and by the 1950s over a 100,000 people watched the Challenge Cup Final the
biggest trophy in RL. When television came on the scene the sport grew even
more and well-known international companies became commercial sponsors. There
has always been a stern rivalry between the RFU and RL governing bodies but in
recent years this sternness has subsided and RL players are now eligible to
play for the RFU’s England team.
Summer also offers the Beach Rugby format, usually based on a 5 player team although 4 to 7 players per team has been used. This simple but energy draining game on sand requires a different set of tactics and huge amounts of energy. A normal game last for 5 minutes each way and no kicking only passing backwards of course. A try scores you 1 point and no conversion. The game is frenetic and non-stop with only a 2 minute break between halves. In the most popular beach rugby venues they have the men, women and veterans categories, some of the most attended beach tournaments are Lisbon, Mallorca, Sopot and Lignano, however, there are plenty more to choose from. There is one more type of rugby competition that has found a niche that suits mixed teams of all abilities - Touch Rugby.
Touch Rugby is usually a form of rugby used to introduce youngsters to the game has been adapted for older groups of rugby enthusiasts to enjoy. Often called Tag Rugby as removing the coloured tag from a player’s belt is considered a tackle is very similar. Touch rugby requires an opposing player to touch the player with the ball with 2 hands for a valid tackle whereupon the player stops and rolls the ball back with his or her foot to a team member to continue the game or to pass the ball by hand before being touched. Sometimes players use the clinch method too by wrapping the arms around a player without forcing the player to the ground. Kicking can be included but depends on the size of the pitch and opposing team. Even more recently, Walking Rugby has sprung up with many rugby clubs giving many rugby lovers with limited mobility and attracting the over 50s to a bit of healthy exercise and competitive fun.
Most tournaments and competitions include various categories for differing levels of ability and almost all tournaments include a veterans section as rugby players are die-hards whether on the field of play or off it. That’s the Spirit of Rugby.