Commonwealth Games Primer: Rugby sevens
All Blacks look to keep perfect record intact
Fast-paced, high-scoring, democratic, and almost instantly gratifying: is rugby sevens the perfect sport for this generation?
Introduced to the Commonwealth Games in 1998, the game has quickly become a staple, earning core-sport status. Another sign it's on the rise: rugby sevens will make its Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio.
What's the difference between rugby sevens and old-school rugby union? It's all in the name. Seven players are on the field for each team instead of 15, and halves last seven minutes instead of 40. With matches starting and ending in the blink of an eye, an entire tournament can be played over a weekend — the 2014 Commonwealth competition will be decided over just two days, July 26 and 27, at Ibrox Stadium — while the amount of scoring remains comparable to a full rugby match because there's much more room for players to manoeuvre.
The smaller roster sizes make it easier for more countries to compete with traditional rugby powers like New Zealand, Australia and England.
The rest of the rules are pretty much the same as traditional rugby's, with a few notable exceptions: the team that scores kicks off, rather than the conceding team; three players from each team are involved in scrums, instead of eight; and conversion attempts must be drop-kicked (there's no option to place-kick).
So who's the best at this game? Big surprise: it's New Zealand, an international rugby powerhouse and the reigning Rugby World Cup champion. The All Blacks' rugby dominance has translated to sevens, where they've won each of the four Commonwealth tournaments with a perfect record.
So why is sevens considered more democratic? Well, Fiji, has captured three Commonwealth medals — that's more than England, Australia and South Africa, who have all won World Cup titles.
Another bonus: rugby is a sport dominated by Commonwealth countries, so the level of play in Glasgow should be excellent as 16 teams — all men's — compete for gold.
Canada, the lone representative from the Americas, drew a tough group that includes New Zealand, Scotland (the hosts invented the game) and Barbados.
South Africa heads Pool B, which also includes Kenya, the Cook Islands and Trinidad and Tobago. Samoa tops Pool C, Wales, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. Pool D features England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
To get you warmed up, check out this highlight-reel try scored by Canada's Conor Trainor at a sevens tournament in Glasgow this year: