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History of Rugby Sevens

If you're looking for the history of Rugby Sevens, then consider that the game of Rugby Football Union also has a long and distinguished history.

The origins and history of Rugby Sevens are found in the small Scottish Borders town of Melrose. It is here that the concept of rugby sevens was created and the first ever tournament held. The border areas, including Melrose, have a deep tradition of rugby playing and some fine and well respected clubs. But in the late 1800's Melrose were going through some financial difficulties and were looking for a way out of their money worries.

So up-steps the now legendary 'Ned' Haig with a plan to get some much needed paying fans in through the doors. He had a vision of creating a rugby tournament and sports day combined. Events such as sprinting and dropkicking were already popular in Scotland at the time and so combining them with a rugby tournament was a natural step.

Unfortunately, a rugby tournament under traditional rules would not have been feasible to conclude in a day. So it was decided to cut the time down to a total of 15 minutes and the number of players down to seven (at the time four forwards and three backs, which was to change as the passing game developed in the twentieth century).

Whether it was Ned who suggested the change, or whether it was put to committee who decided between them, is unclear. What we do know is that on the 28th of April 1883 history was set as the first ever rugby sevens tournament took place in Melrose.

Interest was exactly what the Melrose club needed and hoped for, with 1,600 tickets bought... a number that was to secure their financial future. The tournament was joined by seven clubs that eventually boiled down to the final of Melrose vs Gala. There was no score for the initial 15 minutes so the captains and referee agreed to play on for another 15 minutes extra time.

This was to end in controversy. 10 minutes into the 15 allotted for extra time Melrose scored a try, marching off the field in celebration. Gala insisted that there were still 5 minutes to play and it has been suggested the ref wanted to play on. But with Melrose, insisting it was their tournament and so their rules, as well as the fact that many fans had left in confusion, the trophy was eventually lifted by Melrose.

So a sport created from dire financial need and its inaugural tournament shrouded in controversy has gone on to become one of the best international and club sports in the world.



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