15s, 7s… What do these numbers mean??

First, you have to understand something: my father is a born and bred Hoosier. A basketball man, if you will, happy when the Hoosiers and Bulldogs win, and, strangely enough, a Green Bay Packers fan (I blame it on the year he was born.) Don’t get me wrong; he definitely cheers for the Colts! He is a Butler grad, and when Butler made it to the NCAA Final Four in 2010, my dad and I went to the national semifinal game together. We arrived at least an hour before everyone else, sat peacefully in our seats while he read a paperback book he’d brought, and I tried to soak it all in (I am a Hoosier after all, and thus a basketball fan). It was the game of our lives, and an experience I will never forget.

Rugby? It’s a five-letter word, a European sport that my son and daughter play, and we’re all desperately trying to understand. My parents try to make it to at least one match during the season, crazy Indiana weather permitting. And I try to answer questions to the best of my ability, my husband often providing a better, more detailed response than me. And we all go home after the match, one of us exhausted from actually playing the sport, the rest of us exhausted from concentrating so hard on what was happening on the field.

So, imagine my surprise when my father announced to me last Sunday that HE HAD WATCHED RUGBY ON TV! All by himself! And I hadn’t even told him about it! He said he’d watched rugby so that he could try to understand what it was, but it seemed different than the version he’d seen my kids play. We figured out that he had seen rugby 7s. We started to talk about what 7s was and how it was different from what he had previously seen. It’s probably one of the easier aspects of rugby, but to a person conditioned to 5-on-5 basketball and 11-man football teams on a consistent basis, it can be confusing to see terms like 15s, 7s and even 10s, all in one “season”.

And I figured, if my dad is watching this on television, trying to comprehend all this beautiful sport entails, I can only imagine that the rest of us parents are doing the same! Here is my attempt to simplify the mystery behind the numbers of rugby.

The form of rugby we know here in the states and as we have seen it played “across the pond” is 15s. I will admit freely to you that it took me a really long time to figure this out, but 15s means simply that there are 15 people on the field for each team. Football has 11 players; rugby has 15. This is the form of rugby with the spider-looking “scrum” – the tackle “thing” you often see where the players are huddled together with arms linked and heads down, the entire scrum resembling a living being, moving on its own accord. (What took me even longer to understand was that the imaginary line that splits the middle of the scrum, dividing the teams, is the scrimmage line. But a topic for another day!)

Sometimes, and I’m not sure why, on occasion, you will see a rugby match of 10s. This means, you guessed it, 10 players for each team on the field. I have never seen a 10s game live and in person, but I am aware that they exist!

Rugby 7s consists of two teams playing with 7 players on the field each. With only 7 players, not 15, using the same size field, you can imagine that this is a faster game. A rugby 7s match has 10-minute halves, much less than a rugby 15s game (note that the times for the halves can vary depending upon the age of the players). The players are constantly running/sprinting, and the scores can actually be quite high even with the shorter playing time. This is the rugby event you will see in the Olympics in 2016 in Rio!

Right now, the USA Eagles and Lady Eagles are active in 7s tournaments, while the USA Rugby College National Championships (15s) are just finishing up in the various divisions. Coming up in early June is the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia, an invitational event that will comprise not only college teams, but a separate high school event as well. The USA Rugby College National Championships for Men’s and Women’s 7s is November 23-24, 2013. (Thank you to Tam Breckenridge of USA Rugby for clarifying!)

That doesn’t seem so confusing, does it?

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