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However, unlike T20 Cricket, Rugby Sevens has a long legacy. It was invented by two Scottish men in the late 19th century, who wanted to raise funds for a local club, and devised a smaller version of the game for which they could find enough people. This happened way back in 1883 and it took a whole 90 years or so for the first International Rugby Sevens tournament to take place.
But since its ascendancy to the world stage in the mid 1970's, the condensed sport has gained leaps and bounds in regions outside the traditional Rugby nations of the world. The Hong Kong Sevens tournament has been immensely popular since 1976 and when in 1993 the 1st Rugby World Cup Sevens was held, it was a raging success. In 1998, it was included in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur for the first time and given the status of a â€˜Core' event, meaning it is a must at every Commonwealth Games henceforth. From 2016, it will become a regular feature at the Olympics too!
As the name suggests, Rugby Sevens is a 7-a-side variant of the longer version of the sport. The game is also reduced to two halves of 7 minutes each from the original 40 minute a half, with a 1 minute half-time break. For tournament finals however, the halves are of 10 minute duration, with a 2 minute half-time break. There is also a provision for 2 halves, each of 5 minutes of Extra-time incase a deadlock is to be broken. Other changes to make the game more exciting include three player scrums, instead of eight player scrums. A yellow card in a Rugby Sevens game, would entail a 2 minute suspension, instead of 10 minutes as the customary rules suggest. Also, all conversion attempts are drop kicks and not place kicks, and they have to be taken within 40 seconds of the stoppage of play. Since Sevens is played on the same field as regular Rugby, there are more open spaces. As a result, plenty of scoring opportunities are created, making the game interesting and fast paced. All the other rules of the Rugby Union apply for the Sevens format as well. Each team tries to outscore the opponents. Points awarded for a try (5), a conversion (2), a penalty (3) and a drop kick (3) remain exactly the same as in Rugby Union.
The reception many players are getting in Rugby Sevens tournaments can be compared to that of major world rugby tournaments. Nowadays, many Rugby players, especially those with fast movement and good tackling ability play both forms of the game. The penalty kick taker is a specialised role, and this player too generally would play in both formats.
Many followers of the sport criticized this format, labeling it a contamination and an advertisement of the sport when it became popular in the 1970s. But the manner in which the sport began to be played in countries in South East Asia and other Pacific Island nations goes a long way in justifying why Rugby's shorter version is doing wonders for the game in general.
Today, either form of Rugby is played in more than 100 countries worldwide. Rugby Sevens are dominated by Samoa, New Zealand, England, Wales, Fiji and Australia.
Defending Commonwealth champions New Zealand have never lost a game at the Commonwealth Games over the last 3 editions, winning gold in all of them. However, World Champions Samoa are a serious threat to the Kiwi challenge, and they will look to dethrone their bitter rivals this time round.
Also, this year 16 countries will do battle for the Rugby Sevens Gold. Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Canada, Guyana, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, England, Scotland, Wales and host nation India are divided into four pools. The pool stage will be played out in a league format, after which the top two teams from each pool will compete in the knockout phase starting with the quarterfinals and so on.
In the last edition of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, New Zealand overpowered England in the finals, while Fiji claimed the bronze medal ahead of host nation Australia. However, Fiji will not be competing this year as they are suspended from the Commonwealth because of the military coup on the Pacific island nation since 2006.
The Indian Sevens team come into the tournament on the back of successful outings in tournaments in Turkey, Istanbul and Shanghai, and look confident to do relatively well in the Delhi games. They are in the same pool as South Africa, Tonga and Wales.
Indian rugby fans will be treated to a number of feisty affairs as the top Rugby Sevens teams around the world will take to the Delhi University grounds on October 11th and 12th, in the hope of winning the coveted Queens Gold medal. Be prepared to watch some of the best rugby players in the world use suave strategy, sublime movement and gut wrenching body strength to make a try. India will look to use home support to her advantage, provided Delhi turns up in large numbers.
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