In Review

Olympics 2016: What time is the rugby sevens at Rio?

Everything you need to know about the Olympic newbie, from the rules to the players to watch out for

Rugby makes its return to the Olympics this month after a break of 92 years but it's sevens not that 15s that Rio will host. Here's the lowdown on an Olympic newbie that will showcase the skills of some of the fittest, strongest, swiftest athletes on the planet.

What's the source of sevens?

The Melrose rugby club in the Scottish border are credited with inventing sevens. In 1883 the club was short of cash and one enterprising member, local butcher Ned Haigh, came up with the idea of staging a seven-a-side tournament to raise some readies. Seven clubs took part on a cold damp April and Melrose won their own event.

What happened next?

Sevens stayed pretty low key for the next 90 years, with tournaments usually held as end-of-season entertainment. Then in 1973 Scotland staged the first international rugby sevens tournament at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. Its success led in 1976 to the launch of an annual sevens tournament in Hong Kong featuring sides from around the world.

What about a World Cup?

That finally arrived in 1993, six years after the 15-a-side game staged its own World Cup. The first such event for sevens was held in Edinburgh and England caused something of an upset by beating Australia in the final with a side that included a young Lawrence Dallaglio. England captain Andy Harriman was presented with the Melrose Cup, named in honour of the small Scottish club that gave the world sevens.

And the Olympics?

Fifteen-a-side rugby was played at the Olympics from 1900 to 1924 with the USA the last nation to win gold before the sport was discontinued. Momentum began to gather pace for its re-inclusion after rugby turned professional in 1995 and 14 years later the IOC announced that rugby sevens would make its debut in the 2016 Games.

How does sevens differ to 15s other than player numbers?

Sevens is played on the full pitch with three forwards and four backs. Though there are three-man scrums, there are no line-outs and none of the other complexities of the 15-man game such as rucks and mauls. But the scoring systems are identical with five points for a try and three for a penalty with conversions taken by a drop goal. The big difference is that in sevens each half lasts just seven minutes with a one minute turnaround.

What's the format in Rio?

The women's and men's tournament both feature 12 teams divided into three pools. The top two in each pool along with the two best third-placed teams go through to the quarter-finals and from there it's the semis and final.

Ones to watch?

Sonny Bill Williams, New Zealand: One of the biggest names in the sport, the former rugby league star has won the 15s World Cup twice with the All Blacks.

Seabelo Senatla, South Africa: The 23-year-old South African has clocked 10.6 for the 100m and used that pace to score 66 tries in last season's sevens World Series.

Carlin Isles, USA: The fastest man in rugby, Isles turned to sevens after narrowly missing out on qualifying for the US Olympic sprint team in 2012. Boasts a PB of 10.2 for the 100m

Josua Tuisova, Fiji: The 22-year-old, who plays his 15s rugby in France with Toulon, is 5ft 10in, weighs 17 stone and can run like the wind.

Mark Bennett, Great Britain: A regular for the Scotland 15s side in the last couple of seasons, the Glasgow centre is the only capped 15s star in Team GB rugby squad.

Collins Injera, Kenya: Team GB play Kenya in their pool opener, which will pit them against Sevens legend Injera, who with 235 tries to his name, has scored more than anyone else in sevens World Series history.

Who'll get gold?

Fiji are favourites. The Pacific Islanders are coached by Englishman Ben Ryan, who took on the role in 2013 having done a similar job for the England Sevens, and he's turned them into the best side in the world after a period in the doldrums. Champions of the Sevens World Series in 2015 and 2016, the Fijians combine pace and power with sublime ball skills. Their strongest challengers are likely to be New Zealand and also South Africa, who took gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

When is it on?

The women's sevens starts at 3pm UK time on Saturday 6 August in the Deodoro Stadium, located to the west of Rio and capable of holding 15,000 fans. The group games occupy the first couple of days with the semi-finals and finals taking place on Monday 8 August. The next day the men's competitions kicks off in the same stadium at 3pm and it culminates on Thursday 11 August with the Gold Medal match at 11pm UK time.

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