Rugby Sevens 101

The Object

Like almost any other sport, the goal in rugby sevens (aka rugby 7s) is to score as many points as possible. The game is quick and dynamic, played over two seven-minute halves. Teams of seven players each advance the ball down the field by passing, running, and kicking the ball in order to score a try, similar to a touchdown in American football.

The Players

As its name implies, rugby 7s is played with seven players on the field for each team. The players are divided into two groups, forwards and backs.

There are three forward players: two props and a hooker. The forwards are the first line of defense against the speedy back players, and also are key elements of scrums and lineouts. While forwards in the fifteens game are big and beefy, like gridiron linemen, sevens forwards are quicker in order to keep up with the speedier pace of the game.

Four players make up the back row: a scrumhalf, a flyhalf, a center and a fullback. The scrumhalf is the link between the forwards and backs, and has to be able to perform both functions. The flyhalf, center, and fullback do most of the ball handling on offense, and are the last line of defense to take down their back counterparts should they get loose.

The Field/Pitch

The field, known as the pitch, is 100 meters long by 70 meters wide with two ‘H’ shaped goalposts on either end.

The Scoring System

Try (5 points): A try is scored by touching the ball to the ground in the opponent’s try zone.

Conversion Kick (2 points): After a try, a team can tack on another two points by kicking the ball through the goal posts.

Penalty Kick (3 points): When a team commits a penalty, the other team has the option of putting three points on the board by kicking the ball through the goal posts. The spot of the kick depends on where the penalty was committed.

Drop Goal (3 points): A drop goal is scored by drop kicking the ball through the goal posts in open play.

Loose Play

Maul: Occurs when the player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents and one or more teammates. A maul forms when a player keeps his feet from a tackle, and a teammate (or teammates) grab on and help him push forward.

Ruck: Happens after a tackle when the ball is on the ground and one or more players from each team comes in contact trying to get possession of the ball. More or less it’s fighting for a loose ball, same as in football. Except in rugby, players must use their feet to try to win or keep possession.

restarting the game (set piece)

In rugby, restarting play after a stop is called a ‘set piece’. A set piece can occur in two ways:

Scrum: A contest for the ball involving the forwards who bind together and push against the other team’s forwards for possession of the ball.

Lineout: It’s a cross between an inbounds play and a jump ball that you would see in basketball.  Both teams line up opposite of each other before one team throws the ball through the middle of the two sides. It’s the job of the inbounding team to jump up and take possession.

Why Did The Whistle Blow?

Offside:  Offside rules ensure there is space to attack and defend. In general, a player is in an offside position if that player is further forward (nearer to the opponents’ goal line) than the teammate who is carrying the ball or the teammate who last played the ball. Being in an offside position is not, in itself, an offense, but an offside player may not take part in the game until they are on-side again. If an offside player takes part in the game, that player will be penalized.

Forward Pass or Knock-On: If a pass has gone forwards, or a handling error has resulted in the ball moving forwards, a scrum will be awarded to the non-offending team.

Failure to release player or ball: After a tackle, the tackler must immediately release the ball carrier, and the ball carrier must immediately release the ball. Failure on either of these counts limits a fair contest for possession. If release does not occur within a reasonable time frame, the referee will award a penalty to the non-offending team.

Failure to Roll Away: Any players on the ground when a ruck or maul is formed must immediately roll away from the ball, so as to allow continuity of play for the team in possession. Failure to do so will result in the award of a penalty to the non-offending team.

Joining Ruck/Maul from the side: When joining a ruck or maul, all players must do so from behind the feet of the last teammate. If they join from the side, they are in an offside position and taking part in the game, then this will immediately be penalized.

Un-Playable Ball in Ruck or Maul: If the ball becomes un-playable in a ruck or maul, e.g., underneath players who are on the ground, but neither team is at fault, the referee will award a scrum to the team who was in possession before the ruck or maul was formed.

Yellow Card (Sin Bin): A player receiving a yellow card is sent off the pitch for a 2 minute interval. The offending team will play down a player for that time period.

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