Rugby was played as a medal sport in Olympics for the first time in 1900 Paris Games. In London’s 1908 Olympics, the sport made its second appearance but it was excluded from the 1912 Games at Stockholm. The Olympic Games were not held in 1916 because of World War I but Rugby came back in 1920 Games at Antwerp and 1924 Games in Paris. Afterwards, the International Olympic Committee dropped Rugby from the Olympics. Since then, several nations and sports organizations have appealed IOC to bring the sport back into the Olympic fold. Such efforts went in vain because IOC was not impressed with the 15-a-side classical version of the game that took 80 minutes of playing time. Deliberating in its October 2009 Copenhagen session, IOC voted in favor of re-introducing the sport. But the committee replaced the classical version of the sport with Rugby-Sevens. This 7-a-side version is already quite popular and could be compared to T-20 cricket contrasted with test-match versions. However, unlike a relatively shorter history of T-20 cricket, the concept of seven-a-side Rugby was born 132 years ago, in the Scottish town of Melrose. As per a legend, Scottish clubs found it difficult to field teams of 15 players and therefore decided seven-a-side contests. With players enjoying extra space to showcase their game-skills, individual flare and fancy footwork gave life to a new version of running Rugby where more tries were scored and innovative skills, timing and agility became key factors. For the fans too, the shorter version was more spectator-friendly just as the currently popular hit-a-minute T-20 fixtures in cricket. One of the most important tournaments in rugby-sevens circuit is the Hong-Kong Sevens. It has popularized the game in Asia with no lack of corporate sponsorship. But there are year-round tournaments world-wide from Bogota to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur to Kenya and Singapore to Sweden.
The shorter version called Rugby-Seven will be one of the two new sports at Rio. The other sport is Golf that will also make its debut in the 2016 Olympic Games. Rugby-Sevens is World-Rugby’s most popular sport that has nearly the same governing play-rules as 15-a-side classical rugby. The biggest differences are the limit on time and number of players per side. Otherwise, the playing area is still 100 meters long and 70 meters wide and all rules of classical rugby apply. Normal match time in rugby-sevens is 14 minutes, split into two halves of 7 minutes each, with a break of one or two minutes. In major tournaments, the final is played over two halves of 10 minutes each. Since the number of players is reduced to 7 per side, scoring occurs more frequently as defenders are widely spaced out. Shorter time in rugby-sevens allows the entire tournament to be completed very quickly. At the Rio Olympic Games, men’s and women’s competitions in rugby-sevens will be held during August, 6-11, 2016 at the Deodoro stadium.
12 men and women’s teams will take part at Rio and a large number of them have already qualified. On Sunday September 27, 2015, South Africa’s women’s team became the 9th nation to qualify for Rio 2016 after beating Kenya 31-5 on their way to winning the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens event in Johannesburg. Runner-up Kenya and two losing semifinalists Tunisia and Zimbabwe will take part in the 2016 global repechage tournament that will determine the 12th and final women’s rugby qualifier. The other two spots will be decided earlier, when regional qualifications take place in Oceania and Asia during November. As the host nation, Brazil qualified automatically. The 9 confirmed teams in women’s rugby-sevens are; Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Colombia, USA, France and South Africa.
In men’s rugby-sevens, Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Great Britain were the first four teams to qualify after finishing as first four in Rugby-Sevens World Series in 2014-15. Four more teams have since joined the qualified list and the confirmed eight nations are; Brazil, South Africa, Great Britain, Fiji, New Zealand, Argentina, USA and France. The next three quota places will be decided after Asian, Oceania and African qualification tournaments at Hong Kong, Auckland and Johannesburg in November and the 12th men’s qualifier will emerge from the 2016 global repechage tournament.