| The Best Sport Set to Debut in the 2016 Olympics

Author / Carl Case


For the first time since 1924 rugby is returning to the Summer Olympics. Originally, the 15-player version of rugby appeared in the Olympic Games in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924. However,  Rio marks the debut of rugby sevens – a faster, shorter adaptation of the game.

There is no doubt rugby is one of the fastest growing sports, and sevens is no exception. This is in part due to the pace at which the game is played. It’s a roller coaster of non-stop action, where there are no timeouts and countless displays of speed, hitting, and athleticism one on top of another. It’s like taking football, editing out all the timeouts, commercial breaks, stoppage between plays, reviewing of plays, and pressing play. At last year’s biggest US Sevens tournament in Las Vegas, teams scored on average once every 79 seconds!

Another key to its success is that it is very spectator friendly, requiring very little understanding or prior experience to enjoy the game The shortened games also allow the spectator to see a numbers of countries in a single sitting, playing to our ADD. Get up to grab a beer, and another game will have started.  

History of 7’s

Rugby sevens was initially conceived in 1883 by Ned Haig and David Sanderson, who were butchers from Melrose, Scotland as a fundraising event for their local club. Although the game was popular inside Scotland’s borders, it didn’t catch on elsewhere until the 1920s. The first officially sanctioned tournament for national teams was the 1973 International Seven-A-Side Tournament. Since this time, two major tournaments around the world have been created, The Rugby World Cup Sevens launched in 1993 in which the Melrose Cup is contested, and World Sevens Series in 1999.

Rugby Sevens Rundown

As the name suggests there are seven players from each side; what makes the game so exciting is that 7 athletes cover a field that measures 100 meters (110 yards) in length and 70 meters (77 yards) in width! This is the same field that is used for the 15s version of the game, but the removal of half of the players is what leads to the high pace of the game.

The game consists of two, seven minutes halves with a halftime break of 2 minutes. Championship matches extend out to 10 minute halves. Compared to the 15s version which is two 40 minutes halves. Each side is allowed 5 subs, and just like the 15s variation once a player is subbed for he is no longer able to return to the field (with the exception of blood).

For those of you familiar with the 15s version the rules for the most part are the same with a few exceptions. The biggest differences being scrums are 3v3 instead of 8v8 There is no “make it, take it” format like 15s, the scoring team in 7s kicks off to the other team much like we are accustomed to seeing in American Football.


Teams to Watch

The field of 12 for the men’s side in Rio:

Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, Britain (combined England, Scotland, and Wales), Argentina, the United States, France, Japan, Australia, Kenya, Spain, and  Brazil (who qualified as the host country).

Traditional power houses like New Zealand, Fiji, and South Africa will be your teams most likely considered by a lot to be the medal contenders.

Out of these 12 countries there are a few to watch out for. First is Fiji, who are back to back World Series Champions. They are one of the most electrifying and most enjoyable teams to watch. They regularly complete plays leaving spectators in disbelief of what they just saw. They are also looking to bring home the country’s first olympic medal ever since they started participating in 1956!

Britain is also a wild card that could end up making some noise. The reason being is that it is a combination of  England, Scotland, and Wales who are ranked 8th, 10th, and 12th respectively in the World Series standings. The question will be if the best from these three separate teams can create the team chemistry necessary to make some noise.


Lastly, we cannot forget the reigning Olympic Rugby Champions – the good ‘ol United States (yes, we won the gold in 1924). A lot of people would classify the United States as a dark horse. Over the last 18 months they have done a lot of work to gain respect around the world:

  • Second USA Men’s 7s team to reach a Cup Final and the first to ever win a Cup Final in a Sevens World Series tournament.
  • It took 29 attempts but the Men’s Eagles Sevens achieved what many thought would never happen: a win against New Zealand.
  • Winning the 2015 NACRA Men’s Sevens Championships.
  • A bronze placing in the Rugby sevens at the 2015 Pan American Games.

We can look at the current rugby World Series Standings to try and shine a light on who is favored to take home the gold, but looking at the wins and losses of the World Series Tour just about everyone has the chance to win on any day. It all depends on what teams show up.


The Future of the Sport

This year’s Olympics could be a pivotal year for the sport of rugby. Rugby will be taken out of its traditional countries and introduced to whole new list of of countries that its never seen before. With that is the long-term hope of increased lower tier nations and new countries deciding to fund and support the development of the sport in order to seriously compete. We have already started to see this happen with countries like the United States, Fiji, and China. There is also hope of new players flocking to the game. Currently there are seven million players world wide, and it’s projected to reach 10 million in four years with the ultimate hope of it more than doubling to 15 million in 10 years. Lastly, increased viewership to support the sport’s growth needs to continue to grow. This will come down to the organizations that oversee the sport and their ability to develop and facilitate the growth of broadcast systems that support the spectators experience.

Be sure to catch this monumental Olympics debut when it airs August 6th – 11th!


Share this article

Carl Case

Carl Case has been an athlete his whole life, playing both football and rugby in high school. After high school, he directed his focus to rugby where he went on to become a collegiate Midwest All Star. Carl continues to play rugby on a mens team near South Bend, and was part of a National Runner Up team. He found CrossFit and then Power Athlete as a way to fuel his rugby performance. He has been following the Power Athlete methodology since it’s launch in 2009 and attended his first CrossFit Football seminar in August of 2009.

After an introduction to CrossFit in 2007, Carl became a certified coach in 2009 and co-owner of CrossFit South Bend in 2011. In addition to coaching CrossFit and Power Athlete inspired classes at the gym, Carl has been coaching high school rugby since 2009. He uses the CrossFit Football and Power Athlete concepts to help his young athletes identify their goals and provides pointed instruction to help achieve those goals.

Leave a Comment


Never miss out on an epic blog post or podcast, drop your email below and we’ll stay in-touch.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.