The 2013 USA Sevens is scheduled to take place this February 8-10, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. The USA Sevens international rugby tournament in Las Vegas is the fifth of nine stops on the 2012-13 HSBC Sevens World Series.
The three-day tournament is the only North American stop for the Sevens World Series, and is the largest rugby tournament in North America.
The world’s best sevens players will compete under the lights in Las Vegas on Friday, February 8, 2013 kick-starting three days of world-class rugby competition and celebration in the entertainment capital of the world.
The USA Sevens Tournament is fast becoming one of the most exciting sporting events in the United States.
16 Nations, 44 Games, 3 days of Non-Stop Action
As one of the premier sevens rugby tournaments in world, fans are able to view 16 national teams compete in 45 matches during the three-day competition in an attempt to gain points in the Sevens World Series standings.
Played on the same size field as traditional 15-player rugby, sevens rugby is played with just seven players per team. Matches have seven minute halves, with two minute intervals for pool and knock-out matches. The fast pace and short duration of matches makes every moment of the action thrilling for spectators.
Through a partnership with NBC Sports Group, the USA Sevens Tournament is broadcast live for 8 hours on NBC and NBC Sports. In addition to the USA Sevens Tournament, NBC has committed to broadcasting all 9 stops on the HSBC Sevens World Series tour.
Started in 1999, the HSBC Sevens World Series is an annual elite-level competition series between nations, whose top professional rugby players compete against each other throughout the year for the World Series Title.
National Teams compete for the HSBC Sevens World Series title by accumulating points based on their finishing position in each of the nine series tournaments.
HSBC Sevens World Series is sanctioned by the International Rugby Board (IRB). USA Sevens is the US-based tournament that is owned and operated by USA Sevens LLC.
Played on the same size field as traditional 15 a-side rugby, sevens rugby is played with only seven players per team. In addition to a keen understanding of how the game is played, pure speed and athleticism are the foundation for the sevens rugby standout. The game is played with non-stop action, thrilling attacks and game saving tackles.
The USA Sevens debuted at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, California in February 2004, marking the first time the United States ever hosted an official IRB event of this magnitude and world importance. The tournament is now held in the party capital of the world, Las Vegas.
With 16 Nations, 44 Games and 3 days of incredible days of action, USA Sevens is fast becoming one of the most exciting sporting events in the United States.
The tournament saw a massive increase in attendance over 2010, by the order of 36%. By all accounts the fans really embraced the event, and made the 2011 USA 7s the biggest and most commercially successful rugby event ever.
USA Sevens expects attendance to grow to increase again in 2012, especially since the tournament is adding a third event on Friday (2/10) night.
Birth of Rugby Sevens
Seven-a-side rugby began in 1883 to raise money for the Melrose RFC, a well-known Scottish border side. The club had experienced financial problems and raising the annual dues or increasing the price of a pint was not going to solve the chronic problem of shortage of funds.
Enter into rugby history, Ned Haig, local butcher and Melrose club member, who conceived of a tournament that would attract other clubs to play a shortened version with seven players on each team. The monies would come from spectators paying admission, and also increased pub revenues generated by the participation of eight sides, accompanied by their fans.
Melrose RFC kept the rules the same as fifteens, and the size of the pitch also conformed to the standard rugby union size. The two significant changes were the total game time (fifteen minutes) and the reduction to seven players. (Back then, the first seven-a-side teams comprised a full-back, two, quarter-backs, and four forwards.)
The action-packed day was April 28, 1883, when Melrose hosted seven other border sides. To make it more interesting for fans, the event included foot-races, a drop-kick contest, and dribbling races. And there was lots of rugby playing during the day, highlighted as “The Football Competition.”
Some 1,600 spectators, many arriving via special event trains, witnessed the historic match. The tournament started at 12:30 and ended seven hours later. The Ladies of Melrose donated a silver cup that continues to be awarded to the winner.
After the birth of seven-a-side rugby by the Melrose RFC, the game remained mainly a Scottish event known as “border sevens.” But in 1926 England’s Middlesex County Rugby Union decided to stage an end of season sevens tournament in May, choosing nearby Twickenham Stadium as the venue with 50 teams invited.
This English event would boost sevens to a wider audience of rugby fans and, more importantly, to the influential sports sections of the London newspapers.
In the 34 ensuing years up to 1959, the winners of the Middlesex Sevens were dominated by well known premiere English clubs, Harlequins, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Rosslyn Park.
It was Iain Laughland, who would change the stilted style of sevens rugby. Laughland (31 caps for Scotland) conceived of a “keep away possession” style, marked by swinging the ball from sideline to sideline with players backing each other up. The team would fan out and, if necessary, retreat backward to create gaps in defense.
In the early 1960s, with Laughland at the helm, London Scottish won five Middlesex events in the 1960s and also two Melrose championships.
Laughland was the originator of the idea of “pace” for seven styled play. Each possession would feature a beginning, middle, and an end. One of the standouts for London Scottish during this period was fleet winger and Scotland International, Charlie Hodgson.
In one Middlesex game, Hodgson scored two spectacular tries and was surprised why he was not chosen for the ensuing Melrose Tournament event. He asked why and Captain Laughland replied, “You score tries, but you have no pace.”
The Middlesex Sevens has evolved to become the largest sevens event in the world; at one time inviting upwards of 300 clubs (1992). Two Rugby League clubs have won the tournament, the Wigan Warriors in 1996 and the Bradford Bulls in 2002. Only in sevens could Rugby League and Rugby Union find common ground for mutual play.
For most players, the Middlesex Sevens tournament represented the only time in their rugger careers they would ever play on the hallowed Twickenham pitch.
Rugby Sevens in the USA
The first Sevens tournament in the United States occurred during a 1959 Thanksgiving holiday Saturday in Manhattan sponsored by the New York RFC. The winner was an M.I.T. “A” team against an M.I.T. “B” squad. About eight teams participated, all from the north east.
Today, with over 175 sevens tournaments played nationally, mainly in the spring and summer time, it seems odd that the first sevens tournament would be scheduled in chilly, end of November New York City.
To understand why is to return to the end of the 1950’s decade, a time when only a few teams played any rugby, including, Harvard, M.I.T., Yale, Princeton, New York, Westchester, and Cornell. The NYRFC was aware that during the Thanksgiving recess many eastern college students gathered in New York City so it capitalized on this college influx to arrange the first sevens event in the US.
A year later in November 1960, the entrants had doubled to 16-teams, an indication of the jump in colleges playing rugby in the east. Added to the tournament roster that year were Dartmouth (two teams), Penn, Wesleyan (two teams), Columbia (first rugby game ever played), Villanova, Manhattan, Brown, and the visiting Montreal Irish.
This second year of the event brought coverage from the NY Times, which had started to write about rugby when 1958 Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins played for Oxford against Cambridge in the Varsity Match of that year. In November 1960, Dartmouth, emerging as the college powerhouse, won against Harvard.
The popular NY 7s tournament expanded exponentially, and by 1963, 45 teams had entered. The Times recorded the winner with a rare rugby photograph (See picture) and a long article by Bill Smith, one of the founders of Old Blue (Columbia alumni), and then a financial reporter for the paper. Most recently in 2011, 138 teams signed up for the NY 7s fall classic.
Sevens would prove as popular in the US as a broad, and Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the New York RFC for its pioneering efforts. The NY 7s remains the nation’s oldest, continuing rugby tournament, now held annually on Randall’s Island, and always during Thanksgiving.
-- COURTESY USASEVENS.COM