Comparing Rugby Sevens with 15-Man Rugby

Daniel Rey@@ReyDanielMFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2015

BARNES, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  The 16 international captains during the Marriott London Sevens Launch on May 13, 2015 in Barnes, England. The tournament will take place at Twickenham stadium on 16 and17 May. The captains, in no particular order, are Gaston Revol (Argentina), Ed Jenkins (Australia), Fernando Portugal (Brazil), John Moonlight (Canada), Tom Mitchell (England), Osea Kolinisau (Fiji), Terry Bouhraoua (France), Katsuyuki Sakai (Japan), Andrew Amonde (Kenya), D J Forbes (New Zealand), Pedro Leal (Portugal), Lolo Lui (Samoa), Scott Riddell (Scotland), Kyle Brown (South Africa),  Madison Hughes (the United States) and Jevon Groves (Wales).  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images for RFU)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 2015 HSBC World Sevens series reaches its climax and culmination this weekend at Twickenham. With England hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup and sevens being included in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, this year's edition is the most high-profile ever.

But how do sevens and the 15-player game compare?

Rugby Sevens

Faster, more exciting, more skilful: No one can deny that sevens is a faster, more exciting game. As the IRB (now World Rugby) coaching manual states:

"With only 14 players on the full-sized pitch, players must have high levels of basic skills in catching, passing and running as otherwise they will be quickly exposed."

As a spectacle, seeing agility or skill rather than brawn is always aesthetically preferable.

More diversity, more open competition: Although New Zealand have won every annual World Sevens series since 2010, the stronger, richer unions do not have it all their own way. Fiji lead the 2015 edition and could be crowned champions at Twickenham on Sunday.

Kenya have a chance to shine after missing out on qualification for a first Rugby World Cup, in England in 2015, and amateurs from Brazil are competing at the London Sevens as they prepare for the 2016 Rio Games.

No scrum resets: With only three forwards in the scrum in sevens, the scrum is a method to restart possession, not a quagmire barely comprehensible even to experts. This keeps the game fast and entertaining.

Sevens atmosphere: Test matches, be they autumn or summer internationals, the Rugby Championship or the Six Nations, may be about celebrating the sport, but they cannot match the festival feeling of rugby sevens. Sevens matters less to the average fan, so the focus is more on enjoying the occasion and applauding good rugby than worrying about your team's performance. This weekend's sevens tournament at Twickenham is a galactic theme.

HONG KONG - MARCH 29:  Fans enjoy the atmosphere during the 2014 Hong Kong Sevens at Hong Kong International Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

15-A-Side Rugby

15-a-side atmosphere: The flipside is the high intensity of the Test arena. With so much at stake, the drama of the Six Nations or Rugby Championship is very hard to match in sevens. This was particularly the case in this year's enthralling final day of the Six Nations, where Wales, England and Ireland all contended for the title and France were mathematically in the running. An astonishing 221 points were scored in three matches.

The biggest players: The 15-a-side rugby benefits from the biggest names. Some legends of the game, such as Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen, rose through the sevens circuit, but there is no denying that the superstars of the sport play the 15-man game.

"A game for all shapes and sizes": The mantra that rugby is a game for everybody is a commendable one, and it only applies to the 15-a-side version. The fewer players allowed on the pitch in sevens means that heavier, slower players are never going to be selected.


Both sevens and 15-a-side rugby are key parts of what makes rugby a great sport. They complement each other by providing variety and very different viewing experiences.

Sevens may have the edge over 15-a-side rugby for more casual observers, but both versions of the sport appeal to traditionalists because of free-flowing rugby and set-piece intricacies, respectively. As such, rugby lovers don't need to choose between the two.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.