International rugby is back in the spotlight this weekend with the return of the Six Nations, but the Sevens stage serves a vital purpose in growing the game. TRU's Arun Watkins explains why...
With my father being born in Germany (BFPO), my mother in Zambia, my paternal grandparents in England - my maternal grandfather and grandmother born in British India and Portuguese India respectively - I think you can safely say that being of a truly global heritage is a true description of me!
I believe that Rugby Sevens is the form of the sport that can have an appeal worldwide and unless something changes significantly, it will stay that way.
The sport engages a large number of sides on a regular basis on the global stage. By having a whole host of teams, the HSBC World Sevens Series - which resumes in Singapore and Vancouver next month - allows for a regular fixture list between a high number of nations.
This enables them to play against each other and it provides an opportunity that would not be there in either Union or League, in my opinion. This number of participating teams has increased if you take into account other competitions such as the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.
For example, in either Union or League, could you find yourself in a group stage alongside nations from every other continent and the stage be competitive? No, I didn’t think so….
Whereas in Sevens, this is true. A pool stage can have England, the USA, Japan, Argentina and Kenya with England topping the pool not a foregone conclusion. In the 15-a-side game however, the overwhelming majority would place a bet on England lifting the crown whilst a small minority may fancy their chances of betting on Japan. Outside of that, not much else.
The Sevens World Cup was closer aligned with the Football World Cup (as it was the Rugby World Cup) with the diverse representation of nations. The likes of Jamaica, Chile and Hong Kong all participated in the 2018 edition in San Francisco - would we get this in the 15-a-side game? Not at present.
Some of the world’s smallest nations, Monaco & San Marino, both have only ever fielded 7s teams. Some may say this is because they don’t have enough players to field a 15-man squad. I would say that they are missing the point.
The fact that Sevens requires half the players required to run a 15-a-side match makes it more accessible to the public. A 5-a-side kickabout requires 10 players, a ball and jumpers… Sevens requires 14 players, a ball and some jumpers. The most popular form of football right now in the United Kingdom is the smaller version of the game.
In some of the world’s faraway smallest Pacific Islands, Sevens is played. In India, my mother’s country of origin, I have only ever seen them compete on the world stage in a Sevens competition. In the 2010 Commonwealth Games, they came up against Tonga, Australia & the previous year’s winners, Wales. This would never happen in the 15-a-side game where a country currently ranked 84th in the world would face up against a top 10 side.
In summary, I feel Sevens is a truly global sport because it brings the world together in competitions where the playing field is level and every single team does realistically have a chance of beating anyone on their day.