What’s the deal?
Rugby’s back after a long hiatus, having not been in the Olympics since 1924. However, this is not the same rugby as used to be contested. This is rugby sevens, an adaptation of the traditional 15-person team contest that has just seven players on a side.
Two teams face each other, trying to score points by getting an oval-shaped ball over a goal line in one of four ways:
- Try (5 points): Running the ball over the goal line and touching it on the ground.
- Conversion (2 points): If you score a try, you can drop-kick the ball over the goal post.
- Penalty (3 points): Really serious penalties give the other team the opportunity to kick for a goal if their position on the field is within kicking range of the goal post.
- Drop goal (3 points): If you’re within kicking range of the goal post, you can try to kick it over.
Some of the game’s nuances include the fact that a player can only pass a ball backwards to their teammate. The “scrum” is basically a pile of players–three from each team–who are tasked with getting the ball from the middle of the scrum to one of their teammates to start scoring.
Men and women each have their own tournament.
Why should I watch?
One of the Olympic moments we’re waiting for is the haka. At the beginning of every New Zealand rugby match, the All-Blacks, as they’re called, start their full-team rugby matches by challenging their opponents with a traditional Maori haka that can move you to tears (well, the emotion it invokes usually moves us to tears)–or drive you to YouTube to spend a few hours watching more of them. Unfortunately, the All Blacks captain has said they’ll only do the haka if they win gold. We’re hoping they change their minds. Just in case.
The haka’s not the only reason to watch rugby sevens. With fewer players on a full-sized rugby field, the action gets pretty fast. Games are really short too–14 minutes long, with seven-minute halves.
Potential drinking game:
If someone accidentally passed a ball forward, raise your glass.
The perfect snack:
Rugby sevens games need officials to determine penalties and scoring. If you’re excited about rugby, want to be involved, but don’t like the idea of finding yourself in the middle of a scrum, consider becoming an official. Find out more about joining their ranks here.