Sevens may be boost to traditional game
Updated: 2013-03-25 05:55
By Tang Zhe (China Daily)
Rugby Sevens' inclusion into the Olympic Games has led to a global spike in the sport's popularity.
On the other hand, it's led to speculations that the classic 15-a-side game might lose its luster as countries shift their focus to Sevens.
Sevens, which places more emphasis speed and skill than strength, is believed to be a path to triggering interest in the sport as a whole.
"I think rugby is unlikely to globalize around the 15-man game because of the physical limitations on the game, and the number of countries simply going to play that," said Sebastian Coe, a member of the International Olympic Committee and chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Games Organizing Committee.
"They may look at this and think normal-size people are not playing this game in most positions. Sevens is a way of bringing back some of the explosive and exciting nature of the game.
"In the 21st century, the challenge is to take sport to young people. Rugby Sevens is seen as an opportunity to freshen the Olympic program, bringing kids in from different parts of the world. It will help the globalization of the game and the number of countries that will play it."
Waisale Serevi, who played for the Fiji 15-a-side team at three Rugby World Cups but is more famous for his Sevens career, said Sevens is a much easier way to take rugby to children and new countries.
"Rugby Sevens is a good tool to introduce rugby to young kids, because it is much easier for kids to understand, go on have some fun and enjoy," Serevi said. "It is the fastest growing sport in America at the moment. We have the opportunities to go to elementary schools, which is something new for Americans."
Officials from the International Rugby Board aren't concerned about the 15-man game falling out of favor.
"Sevens is reaching out a lot easier than the 15s for a number of reasons. We want Sevens to grow as much as possible, but we don't want that to be a hit of the 15s, we hope the 15s to carry it on the way," said Avan Lee, commercial manager of the IRB.
"Everything we do at the moment is to put the sport forward. It's a huge opportunity for us as a sport."
Coe spoke about Sevens' development mirroring the globalization of the Olympics.
"If you look forward 20 years, there is an outside chance that what I would describe as 'old and mature' cities will not be hosting an Olympic Games," Coe said. "By 2028, it may not be a city that we have even thought about.
"At the same time, you have got a game that is expanding into hosting nations that are at best 'emerging' and there is a massive potential in that mix. You will find a lot of children come through Sevens."
The Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is round six of the HSBC Sevens World Series, followed a week later by round 7, the Tokyo Sevens.
(China Daily 03/25/2013 page24)