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What is the value of Rugby Sevens?

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John Beattie | 16:44 UK time, Sunday, 10 April 2011

What should we make of seven-a-side rugby?

Is it a diversion from the theme of trying to win Six Nations matches, or is it a core activity we should encourage much more?

Anyway, that was Melrose Sevens that was. A sunny day, and the local club beat the experts from the Southern Hemisphere in the final.

My band played a gig at night at the post match party, and today it's been a stunning drive through Border country to get home to Glasgow.

Absolutely shattered.

Rugby sevens players have more space to run and need to carry less bulk

There's no doubt that the Melrose Sevens are very good for the Melrose Rugby Club.

It must be a substantial income-earner for a club in a small town that has the great fortune to have founded the shortened game and is now profiting from it.

Even if the butcher who invented the whole thing, Ned Haig, was from Jedforest and probably doing missionary work.

Crikey, his great, great, great nephew was playing for Jed.

I don't know how much Melrose make from the tournament but there is an argument that perhaps they should share it more with teams taking part.

Though you could posit, quite rightly, that this particular line of argument is sour grapes as every club hosting a sevens tournament does so to make cash, and Melrose are no exception.

And, as I sat at the ground, I couldn't help thinking that here was a perfect venue for the larger IRB sevens tournament as long as the SRU could take the money, as it should indeed come to them.

Now, I never used to be a fan of sevens. All these whippets running around for 14 minutes without a serious front-five player in sight was never my idea of fun.

But now I get it. It's entertaining, it's over much more quickly, there are no re-set scrums, and the big fat lads are off the pitch.

But I'm not sure that a great sevens player automatically becomes a great 15-a-side man, and vice-versa.

Oh, most of them will because skills are completely transferable, but specialism in fifteens is key, as is weight.

The modern international player we see at Twickenham is, depending on position, between one and three stones overweight by dint of weight training-induced muscle.

The last thing seven-a-side players need is too much weight.

They have to run. One of the first thing fifteens players need is weight, as much of their time is spent crashing into people.

Momentum, according to my dim memory, is mass multiplied by velocity. Mass, helped by the purchase of studs in the ground, is a precious thing.

But where I see sevens having a key role is in player development.

You will never be more exposed in rugby than when someone passes you the ball when you are exhausted and there are 80 metres to go and you are in a murderous game of sevens.

I've been there, back in the day at the Greenyards, and I am just getting over it.

Well done Melrose.

What do you think? More or less sevens?


  • Comment number 1.

    Some Facts: It's an Olympic sport, it is easier to play/understand and it is generally more entertaining if you assume that entertainment value can be loosely measured by the frequency of try scoring.

    I think 15s and 7s will always be closely linked but I also think that 7s will come to be seen more as a distinct sport rather than just a "shortened version of the game" - particularly with Olympic inclusion and the other facts above. This distinction is likely to be most pronounced in countries with no long term standing in the game at the top level, countries like the USA, China and Russia for whom 7s rugby offers a much easier opportunity for success on the international stage. And if those 3 countries alone put great weight behind 7s rugby then 7s rugby will be where the money is.

    Also, with the IRB 7s circuit set to expand to 10 tournaments over the next couple of years and revenues and sponsorship likely to grow steadily, I expect to see marquee names taking a year out from 15s to play a season on the circuit on lucrative contracts. And there's no reason why the top Rugby League players couldn't do the same.

  • Comment number 2.


    As a Borders man myself I grew up playing both versions of the game, as nearly all rugby players do in the region. The 1 thing that I always come back to skill level.

    I think sevens rugby should play a massive role in the future for its skill development potential, not at the upper echelons of the game but at grass roots and kids level. I think it is a much more easy game for kids to grasp as there is less rules, shorter and more exciting. It develops attacking and play making skills that, let’s face it, the whole Scottish system could do with an injection of.

    Any half brain can bulk up in the gym, and you can teach people how to tackle and defend, but for me a 'rugby brain' is something that is instilled in you at a young age and cannot be taught so easily. This is why sevens rugby at amateur / junior level is so important.

  • Comment number 3.


    I'm a great supporter of sevens and why it was introduced way back then. However, The Melrose seven's have changed! It's has come away from the young family fun days with the whole family attending the event. This year’s event was a great day, hot, sunny and trouble free. But I feel the event has gone cash greedy. Expensive tickets, extortionate beer, no alcohol brought to the ground policy with expensive poor quality food. There was several debates going round the tables on Saturday around the way Melrose exploit the Border sides as a starter course for the pro's / semi pro's to feed off on their way to the finale. To add insult to injury, Melrose has been poaching the Borders young talent with the proceeds from the event. I can see the Border towns turning against Melrose and boycotting the event if they continue to pillage.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sevens is actually one of the best ways to develop a players core skills, particularly backline players.
    Some Aussie players who developed in a huge way thru sevens include Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
    It's also an excellent way for fringe countries to develop players and simply be introduced to the game.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi John, not sure where else to put this message. I'm one of the many ferverent rugdy fans and scottish supporters out there and have been for two decades...I have started reading your Scottish Rugby blog last year.

    Would you consider adding a "Like" / "Dont Like" function against each Post?

    I read though a lot of comments and find myself in agreement with many and disagreement with others - but you would never find this out or the wider view unless you put in some functionality to support this. I generally dont comment unless I have a unique comment to make, most of my comments have been said by someone already...

    I have seen this done on other example of this against 'Jono' from the above post would include:

    Like : Dont Like :

    And would have a button for 'Like' and 'Dont Like' accordingly to provide the reader with the ability to vote against a given post.

    What do you think?

  • Comment number 6.

    Today 's the day !!Having never taken part in anything like this I am pretty surprised to find myself stung into a reply ! So Lad's tighten your seat belt's Auld Ma is here!

    Between two days previous to the Melrose 7's and today I think I have either read repeatedly or personally been taken to task over Melrose's ability to attract players to their club. I find the whole debate quite fascinating .

    Why do young players travel to Melrose? from personal family experience I can safely say its not always a choice that a young player who is dreaming of playing top class rugby has in staying with his "home" club. The SRU has in the past suggested to these players in a very positive, strong, encouraging and down right uncertain terms that to continue to play at age group Scotland level that staying in a third division team is not the way forward. These players then have to find a division one club to take them on, in our case Melrose was interested and has been a wonderful education in rugby terms.

    However surely we cannot hide the fact that regardless of how many coaches from clubs phone a player is still remains the players choice to either stay or go?? I'm sure there are many ,many families in the borders and all over Scotland who have faced this predicament and have had that chat around the kitchen table over which way forwards is best . I hate to think that in bemoaning the fact that these Lads are keen to join Melrose or other teams in that ilk that we tarnish their dreams of playing at that level. I have heard the pointed remarks aimed at these Lads and I cringe.

    So ...... instead perhaps of looking at Melrose and having a wee gripe ( stangely they are not the only club with imports and dare I point out that Hawick has leeked players to Edinburgh for years without so much of a slight grimace!!??) why don't we do what I did at the Greenyards on Saturday............. kick back.........., be utterly proud that club rugby in Scotland can put on such a magnificant display and enjoy every wonderful second of it. And while we are there, maybe think that as in every sport played in Scotland, lets just celebrate the fact that we have such talent in our country no matter whom they play for.

    Good luck to each and every borders club in the 7's may you all have an equally brilliant day as Melrose !!

  • Comment number 7.

    6. At 15:17pm 13th Apr 2011, fendath maciver

    I agree it is ultimately the players choice. However, if you are offered lucerative cash insentives and perks, especially with current financial climate. You would be amazed what people do for tax free cash ! Lower ranked St Boswells RFC alledgedly pay cash per game. I know one player who was offered in excess of £300 per week and a car to play for Melrose. What young lad if offerred / poached would turn it down?? Let's be honest fendath maciver... would you turn it down??

  • Comment number 8.

    Certainly not, who could afford to these days, in fact if I could find anything that i was talented enough at that could pay me I'd be off!!

    However I can only stick to the cold facts I know which are the ones I'm thinking of have never had cash incentives mores the pity , how useful would that have been to get through University eh ! An old car in the last two years but no cash I can assure you. I must say though that I would prefer no one to be paid apart from the coaches and certainly not players from other nations when the huge majority of our own players never see even the hint of money, and believe me that is irrespective of talent! And that's being honest with you " not-in-the-SRU-pocket" !! But I am only a woman so hey, what do I know !

  • Comment number 9.

    What's wrong with giving players cash, rugby is a pro sport after all, it's not your money they are spending. Welcome to the real world.

    For the record, my club is one of those that has lost several young players to 'bigger' clubs over the years. Who the hell are we to let our selfish ambitions get in the way of the ambitions of our best young players to make a career out of the sport. They're chances of getting a pro contract are greatly enhanced if they play for a top club.

    Deal with it.

  • Comment number 10.

    John: I'm sorry to report that I'm not a big fan of Sevens Rugby, and I confess to a certain bewilderment as to why it’s as popular as it appears to be. This may be a feeling not peculiar only to me, if the number of responses to this blog is any barometer.

    I have attended many sevens tournaments across the world and have found them to be wonderful social occasions. Of particular note, the Hong Kong Sevens is well worth the air fare. However, the game itself, and the way it is played these days, is not, IMHO, the spectator sport that the fifteen game is. I find it lacking in a number of ways and not just the eight missing players. Conversely, I’m an enormous fan of the fifteen (22) aside game with its set pieces, even the creaky scrums.

    There was a rumour that the SRU is considering taking Scotland out of the IRB Sevens tournament. I would not be against this, particularly if the funds saved in doing so were put to better use in developing players.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to say as a short, fat, slow, ex front rower that 7's was never my game and I'm not really a big fan of watching it either. I haven't noticed a large number of player coming thru from the Scottish 7's program in to the full 15 man game, but maybe I'm wrong.

    Did on a couple of occasions play in 10 -a-side tournaments and quite enjoyed that format, and could see it as a good way to bring on youngsters and introduce new players, but it didn't really catch on.

    On another related matter, when the super 12's first started on sky, one of our wingers asked " what 3 player do they drop?"
    He was never the sharpest tack in the box, although the front row usually get the stick for being thick!!

  • Comment number 12.

    You are an educated man with your heart in the Scottish club game and a BBC employee to boot.
    Where on the BBC website would you look for the result of this afternoon's Cup final?

  • Comment number 13.

    14th Apr 2011, MeMyselfI .

    Deal with it !

    You sound like a person with a bit of cash, no knowledge of rugby, from the city and with no real allegiance to a club other than your chums go. A "rugger" guy from a public school.......

  • Comment number 14.

    John, I enjoyed a fantastic weekend at Melrose last week for both the vets 10's and the 7's - my first visit (had hoped to play in the vets but a gammie knee put paid to that, at least the boys took home the plate). Mrs AndCrippled is still raving about the atmosphere and the banter!!! We didn't find the prices too bad or the food unedible and can't wait to return next year.
    Although I never enjoyed the first tie of a tournament 7's was and is a great game for skill development and also the development of the top three inches as they say - as already stated anybody can be coached on contact it's what you do with space that is important. As for the idea that Melrose benefit unfairly from the income then I'm afraid that is just the nature of things. Last weeks article in Scotland on Sunday was keen to point out that Melrose still have a strong youth set up as well as bringing in players from other Border towns.
    The SRU have pursued a policy of streaming players for a good while now and it happens in all areas Aberdeen Grammar in the north, Dundee High in the midlands and any of the "big" Edinburgh clubs have been the focal point for talented players who hope to eventually have a future in the pro game. If we are serious about Scottish rugby improving then these "centres of excellence" are really the only way to go and if other clubs in each of the areas concerned don't like it the only real answer is to get their act together put in a robust structure through the age groups and find ways of raising the funds to keep players if that is what it takes.

  • Comment number 15.


    You sound like a person with a bit of cash, no knowledge of rugby, from the city and with no real allegiance to a club other than your chums go. A "rugger" guy from a public school....... "

    You couldn't be more wrong. I've no money, I went to a state school in a country town and I've been at the same club for the past 12 years since I moved here. It's so easy to blame everyone else when in fact it is your own archaic point of view and "old world" ideas that are the real problem. Rugby turned professional 15 years ago and the game in Scotland has gone no where because people of your ideology pervade the SRU and many of it's clubs right to the top.

    How can we move the game in Scotland forward when so many are so determined to move it backwards?

  • Comment number 16.

    Come on guys, get yourselves along to Jed on the 14th May and enjoy a day of real Border hospitality and rugby at the Friendly 7's. Best day out watching skillful club players from all over Scotland playing 7's the way it was intended to be played. All that and hopefully Jed will pick up the King of the 7's on the day.
    All the issues of what the SRU have done to the game over the last two decades and how Melrose are allowed to continually plunder other Border clubs continuing the SRU's work, can be ignored for at least one day of enjoyment.

  • Comment number 17.

    15. At 11:38am 19th Apr 2011, MeMyselfI

    You tell us to deal with it ! That's a typical statement from somebody in a bubble. Insular ! Everytime something goes wrong you throw money at it to fix it, avoid the route cause and march on oblivious of the carnage that surrounds you. Old Scottish rugby values are where the platforms are to built on. If money was the be all and end all Scottish rugby would be up there. As it stands Scottish Rugby is at rock bottom. No money to pay for 2 squads and up to their arm pits in debt. DEAL WITH IT !


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