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A Brief History of Sevens Rugby

05 March 2003

"Sevens matches are unpredictable tests of stamina, ball-handling expertise and blistering pace". Sports historian Jack Pollard.

Origins
The birthplace of the 7s game was the Melrose Club in the Scottish Borders. It has always been the tradition, because there are no official records from this period, that in 1883, Melrose were trying to find a way to raise some much need funds. In stepped Ned Haig, a local butcher who had played for the club since 1880. He said:

 "Want of money made us rack our brains as to what was to be done to keep the club from going to the wall, and the idea struck us that a football tournament might prove attractive but as it was hopeless to think of having several games in one afternoon with 15 players on each side, the teams were reduced to seven men."

The first tournament occurred during an all round sports day which included foot races, drop-kicks, dribbling races, place kicking as well as the rugby. The rugby though was the main attraction of the day.

Eight teams entered the first competition, with Melrose and Gala left to compete in the final. The final remained scoreless after 15 minutes so the two captains decided to play for another quarter of an hour. After 10 minutes, Melrose scored and left the field without even trying to kick their goal or playing the other five minutes. The referee though awarded Melrose the tie as they had scored first in the extra time period. The Melrose team that day included Ned Haig.

With the commercial success of the first tournament in Melrose, it did not take long for other clubs to see the commercial sense in holding their own 7s tournament in an attempt to raise money.


Timeline

1883  Melrose 7s started.

1884 Galashiels FC 7s started. Like Melrose, they also win their own tournament in the first year.

1885  Hawick 7s started.

1887 St. George Club Edinburgh is the first club from outside the border regions of Scotland to play in the Melrose 7s.

1894   Jed Forest 7s started.

1908 Langholm 7s started - the Border Spring circuit of five 7s tournaments on successive Saturdays is started.

1909 St George is the first club to hold a 7s tournament outside of the Boarder's.

1910-18 7s becomes more popular with clubs from all over Scotland sending teams down to Melrose to participate in the tournament.

1919  Selkirk Sports 7s starts.

1920 Kelso 7s starts. The Royal High School ran a 7s tournament at the SRU ground at Inverlieth in aid of a War Memorial Fund. The Maarist School in Western Samoa is the first 7s tournament in that country.

1921 Due to the tournament held in Edinburgh the year before, Edinburgh Institution starts its own 7s tournament. The Buenos Aires 7s in Argentina becomes the first 7s tournament to be played outside of Scotland. Percy Park holds the first 7s tournament in England.

1922 Kelvinside Academicals and Edinburgh Boarders 7s starts.

1923 Several Edinburgh clubs stage a 7s tournament in aid of an Edinburgh charity. This is the beginning of the Infirmary 7s.

1926 England's premier 7s tournament, the Middlesex 7s is first played. The Evening Mail 7s is the first of its kind to be played in Ireland.

1946 Taipei Town hosts the first 7s tournament in Taiwan.

1949 The Middlesex Cup presented by the English county to the NZRFU is the start of 7s in New Zealand.

1950 Old Penantians Sevens hosts the first 7s tournament in Wales.

1955 Madrid University holds the first 7s tournament in Spain.

1959 The Paris University Club hosts the first 7's tournament in France. The New York 7's starts in the USA.

1962 The National Championship is the first 7s tournament played in South Korea.

1968 Bill Riach 7s held at the Royal Hong Kong Police Rugby Club and the Blarney Stone 7s held by Hong Kong FC are the first 7s tournaments in Hong Kong.

1971 Kioma 7s in NSW Australia becomes the first 7s tournament in Australia.

1973 The first international 7s tournament is held at Murrayfield. The winners are England. South Africa holds it first 7s tournament in Pretoria, called the Ford 7s.

1974 Algida RFC of Rome holds the first 7s tournament in Italy.

1976 The first Hong Kong 7s tournament is played. This will soon become the world's premier 7s tournament. Cantabrians are the inaugural winners of the cup, with Hong Kong the first winners of the plate.

1977 Maarist 7s becomes the first 7s tournament to be played in Fiji.

1981 The Barbarians are the first Northern Hemisphere team to win the Hong Kong 7s, and the last club side to achieve this. By the mid 1990's, club sides were no longer invited to participate.

1985 Romania holds its first 7s tournament.

1987 Windhoek United RFC introduces the 7s game to Namibia.

1993 The inaugural World Cup 7s tournament is played at Murrayfield. England are the winners beating Australia in the final.

1997 Second World Cup 7s held in Hong Kong. Fiji are the winners.

1998 7s is introduced to the Commonwealth Games. New Zealand win gold.

1999 The inaugural IRB World 7s Series. New Zealand are the champions after winning tournaments in Dubai, Punta del Este, Suva, Hong Kong and Paris. Fiji came second on the Series table with wins in Stellenbosch, Mar del Plata, Wellington, Brisbane and Tokyo.

2000 The second IRB World 7s Series ran from November 2000 to June 2001 and incorporated new hosts in China, Malaysia, London and Wales.

2001 Third World Cup 7's held in Argentina. New Zealand are the winners beating Australia in the final. New Zealand complete a unique double after winning their second IRB World 7s Series, as well as the 7s RWC in the same year. They won the Series after being victorious in Durban, Dubai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and the Final in Cardiff. This time round Australia beat Fiji for the silver medal - by winning the tournaments in Wellington (when hosts New Zealand were knocked out in the quarter-finals), Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.

2002 The second 7s tournament in the Commonwealth Games. New Zealand are the winners beating Fiji in the final. New Zealand reinforced their complete dominance of the abbreviated game by winning a third straight IRB World Sevens title. England becomes the first Northern Hemisphere country to win the Hong Kong 7s.