MOSCOW, Russia--As the players land and international teams begin to stream into Russia’s largest city, we take a look back at the birth of a game that has been played for 200 years, yet only featured on the world stage six times since its inception.
The origins of sevens rugby dates back to 1883 when Ned Haig and David Sanderson used the game as a fundraising event for their local Scottish club, the Melrose RFC. For years after, the shorter, faster paced game, was primarily used to keep players fit in the off-season, while still maintaining their rugby skills
In 1993, the first Rugby World Cup (RWC) Sevens was played in Scotland, the birthplace of the seven-a-side game. The event now takes place every four years, with 24 teams competing for the Melrose Cup. England lifted the inaugural title at Murrayfield, with Fiji claiming the 1997 crown in Hong Kong thanks to a brilliant 24-21 display against South Africa. Watch the highlights here.
It wasn’t until the 1999-2000 season that the International Rugby Board (IRB) initiated the Sevens World Series, developing an elite-level competition between rugby nations as well as creating a viable commercial product for the IRB.
Four years after the first Sevens World Cup, New Zealand stormed the 2001 championship in Argentina. Then in 2005, sevens legend Waisale Serevi (now living in Seattle) came out of retirement to lead Fiji to a remarkable Melrose Cup win against New Zealand at the famous Hong Kong Stadium. Watch the King of Sevens score in that final.
The Men’s Eagles placed 18th at the 1993 Sevens World Cup and then won the Bowl title in 1997. They improved to 13th in the last three World Cups, reaching the Plate Quarterfinal in 2001, 2005 and 2009. The most recent RWC Sevens tournament took place in Dubai with the Eagles falling to Fiji and France in the pool stages. They rebounded to defeat Georgia, but Coach Al Caravell’s squad eventually lost to Australia 24-12 in the Plate Quarterfinals. Two players remain from that 2009 squad - captain Matt Hawkins and Shalom Suniula.
The Eagles Sevens have competed in the Sevens World Series since its inception, and became a core team during the 2008/2009 season. They finished off their 2012/2013 campaign with magnificent Plate titles in Japan and Scotland, earning two 5th place spots as well as 6th place in England. This display meant the Eagles finished 11th overall and remained a core team for 2013/2014, ensuring that they take part in all 9 tournaments on the HSBC Sevens World Series next year.
In 2012/2013 the Series was renamed after title sponsor HSBC and broke attendance and TV viewership records. The USA leg in Las Vegas drew over 67,000 people, while the largest recorded crowd was seen at the London Sevens, totaling 113,000 over the weekend. New Zealand were superb competitors yet again, winning this year’s Series title, their 11th in 14 seasons.
The inaugural Women’s Rugby Sevens World Cup took place alongside the Men’s event in Dubai in 2009, and featured 16 teams. The Women’s Eagles lost against England, but defeated Russia and Japan in the pool stages. They then knocked out France 19-0 in the Cup Quarterfinals.
In the Semifinal they faced New Zealand in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament. The Eagles scored near the death, trailing 14-12 with time for the restart. The kickoff was brilliantly taken and the Eagles worked their way to New Zealand’s 22-meter, but were tackled out of bounds in a thrilling clash. The Women’s Eagles placed 3rd and will be looking for silverware in the 2013 edition. Christy Ringgenberg is the sole survivor from that 2009 team.
The IRB had said the 2013 Sevens World Cup would be the last one, however, following feedback from its member unions, the IRB's general assembly decided to continue with the World Cup, but moved it two years after the 2016 Olympic Games.
In fact the USA recently submitted a bid to host 2018 Sevens World Cup.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013
1. Carlin Isles
2. Nick Edwards
3. Andrew Durutalo
4. Shalom Suniula
5. Zach Test
6. Matt Hawkins
7. Folau Niua
8. Jack Halalilo
9. Maka Unufe
10. Mike Palefau
11. Colin Hawley
12. Brett Thompson
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Staff
Alex Magleby (Head Coach)
Andy Katoa (Manager)
Brian Green (Athletic trainer)
Paul Goulding (Video Analyst)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Schedule
USA vs. Georgia 8.06 AM E.T Friday June 28
USA vs. Canada 2.06 AM E.T Saturday June 29
USA vs. New Zealand 8.20 AM E.T Saturday June 29
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013
1. Jillion Potter
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Vanesha McGee
4. Deven Owsiany
5. Kimberly Rozier
6. Ryan Carlyle **Akalaini "Bui" Baravilala replaced due to injury
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Emilie Bydwell
9. Irene Gardner
10. Christine Ringgenberg
11. Nathalie Marchino
12. Kathryn "KJ" Johnson
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Staff
Ric Suggitt (Head Coach)
JoAnne Kos (Assistant Coach/Team Manager)
Nicole Titmas (Athletic Trainer)
Dr. Lisa Bartoli (Team Doctor)
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Schedule
USA vs. Brazil 2.28 AM E.T Saturday June 29
USA vs. Fiji 5.24 AM E.T Saturday June 29
USA vs. Spain 12.00 PM E.T Saturday June 29
USOC | Staff
John Crawley, USOC HP Director of Team Sports
Shawn Dolan, USOC Sports Dietician
Peter Haberl, USOC Senior Sport Psychologist