Less Rucks, More Runs 


Why Rugby Sevens will soon sweep the nation. 


The springtime is finally here and with it is the usual confusion when students find out that rugby is played in both the fall and spring at school. Notably, what our women’s rugby team has chosen to do this year is focus the fall semester on the typical form of rugby, Fifteens, and the spring semester on the faster, soon-to-be-in-the-Olympics game of Sevens. Thus, for your viewing convenience, here is a quick guide to the differences between these games.

As the names suggest, Fifteens is a game of that is composed of fifteen different players. There are clear positions, divided into eight forwards and seven backs. Among the forwards, there are two props, who help drive the front row of the scrum, a hooker, who throws lineouts and tries to hook the ball out of the scrum, two Locks, who drive from the second row, two flankers, who drive from the sides of the scrum and often are assigned to making the most tackles, and a number 8, who coordinates the scrum from the back. As for the backs, the is a scrumhalf, who takes the ball out of the rucks and scrums to start the action, a flyhalf, who receives the ball from the scrumhalf and calls the plays for the back line, and inside and outside center, who take the hard, cutting, inside runs, two wings, who are speedy threats to score as well as defensive musts, and a fullback, who will insert into the backline when necessary but tends to be a defensive stopped and an expert kicker.

In a game of Sevens, this is more or less lost. The scrums are reduced to only three people, and the back line is down to only four. Fifteens strategy often times includes many phases, where the forwards take the ball into contact, the team rucks over, and recycles the ball to another forward. Eventually, this will lead to a team bunching up before the team will whip the ball out to the backs and attempt for a bigger play. In Sevens, however, there is little to no contact. The ball is constantly passed down the back line, forwards included, until it gets to the end of the line. Then, the back who last passed it will position herself behind the receiver and act the ‘pocket,’ so that the ball can reverse down the field. This allows for fewer tackles and thus fewer rucks, as losing people to rucks in Sevens greatly diminishes any offensive chances one could possibly have.

Other than team size and strategy differences, the final main change is the time. A game of Fifteens is composed of two, grueling halves of forty minutes each. Physical exhaustion often roots itself in the long phases of constant contact, even if it is only at half speed sometimes. Sevens, though, is simply two halves of seven minutes each. Although with about half the players and the same size pitch, games prove to be equally as tiring, yet perhaps not as grueling.

Nevertheless, this speed and excitement brought about by a lower contact, higher scoring version of rugby is exactly why when it comes to the Olympics in 2016 many people see it popping up as a perfect game for an American audience. Many fans of hockey complain that other sports are too slow. Many fans of football complain not enough sports have the toughness and athleticism of their players. And many fans of basketball complain there is a certain skill level necessary within their sport that others do not have. Enter Rugby Sevens. A game as fast as hockey, with bigger hits and less pads than football, and containing the need for every player to have pinpoint passing and great hands like basketball. Rugby Sevens is the perfect storm of speed, physicality, and skills that every sports lover desires. Moreover, the games are actually quick. It’s not like baseball where for every four hours there are about eighteen minutes of actual play. The game involves fourteen real minutes of intense action.

And the excitement has already begun. People have been talking about US Men’s National Team member Carlin Isles, who was a college sprinter and football player turned rugby potential star, and the captain of the Men’s team Madison Hughes, who currently plays for Dartmouth.

There are storylines galore and it’s all packed into fourteen-minute games that are easy to watch and understand. The way I see it, there’s no way America won’t fall in love with the game. But until those days, catch Harvard’s women’s team play this spring. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Sean Frazzette ’16 (sfrazzette@college.harvard.edu) hates Dartmouth rugby and regrets his shoutout.