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30 March 2010


My preference is a North American multi-city 7s series similar to the IRB's World Sevens Series to determine the top US Rugby 7s team. Perhaps 6 to 10 events held over the summer in small to mid size stadiums, sponsored and televised. We might abandon the season ending tourney to designate USA Rugby’s National Club 7s Champion and All Star 7s Champion. Each club could play in as many events as they find practical. The top competition points earning club at the end of the season would either be declared the national champion or if a final event is deemed the best model then the top ‘x’ number of clubs would qualify for the National Club 7s series final Tournament. The marketability of 7s in the US is an easier proposition than 15s. Eventually we could use the success of 7s athletically and commercially to fund our 15s as well.

We must determine what we want our competitions to achieve and then set up guidelines and rules to establish competitions that achieves those goals. Each competition should fall within a larger framework for rugby in the US. The discussion needs to be directed by a goal or end game plan.

In this case specifically the goal is to create a high level professionalized Rugby 7s competition series. The end game is for the 7 series to be a component of the activities required for the US 7s Rugby team to participate in and achieve medal status in the 2016 Summer Olympics. (The other components should include but may not be limited to youth development, athlete recognition and recruiting, school and university based programs, club level development, high performance training, cross over athlete identification, professionalization of organizations, staff and players.)

Howard Kent

Hey Howard -
Great input, however it starts and ends with a product that is good for TV and sponsors, make sure that is on your list, maybe somewhere near the top.
You talk about the product, but not the production, you talk about the outcome but not the sell.

Hey Howard,
To put it another way, you have a goal, now what about the road map - commercial being either the car or the first curve!

Hey Howard,
No BS here - we can think youth or college or think club or think the school of the blind, however we must pitch our idea(s) to a network for them to buy off on it - that network has to throw enough value at it to sponsors to want to steer money from other events or shows - to do that they must like our demo and or this is part of something more than a one and done for TV.
Road map baby - 7's may be your key?

I have an outline of the Limitations, Goals, Strategy, Tactics, and many Details. Maybe we can sell it, maybe we can not. One thing is certain, it is incumbent upon all of us that are interested to prepare and provide the best possible product in terms of venue, teams and communications in our own back yards. We must also encourage and support the most social and least competitive elements in our sport because they have an equally legitimate stake in the future of the game.

Real progress toward any goal must identify potential obstacles and limitations.
The competency, energy and time of individuals at the organizational level.
The competency, energy and time of individuals at the operational level.
The competency, behavior and cooperation of governing bodies.
The behavior and competition from opposing bodies.

Howard Kent

me, i'd much rather see 15s than 7s...for me, as minigolf is to golf so is 7s:15s...but it's pretty clear to see which way the tide is going here...tough to be the naysaying counterparty to olympic dreams but sure wish 15s were a mature & engrained part of us sports fabric before we grow rugby's little brother at the expense of 15s.

With an end state in mind, XVs and 7s are on opposite ends of a socio-political spectrum. Now that 7s has achieved Olympic status it can fit right in with many other varsity sports such as swimming, wrestling, diving, track and field etc. etc. which lead to Olympic hope instead of cash-cow contracts. XVs is an end state to the commonwealth model. It is part of an age-grade type of pipeline. In the last 100yrs the dominance hierarchy in XVs has been with 4 teams: France, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand have been the major rugby powers. Right now there are 10 teams (excluding NZ and Samoa on current form) who could beat each other on any given day. The USA can do a lot better much faster in this type of environment. Sure you can go to a world cup using a varsity pipeline, but XVs rugby isn't going to be the marketing monster many would like it to be...ever, not here in the USA. 7s could be that monster albeit on a smaller scale. IF we want to use the varsity model, we need to focus on 7s as it fits into the "American Way" of doing things. Howard Kent seems like he has thought more about this than the executives up at USAR. Perhaps Mr. Kent should be helping to steer this ship.

Isn't USA 7's trying to provide the local product with the college 7's invitational in Columbus?

Seems to me that this could be the make or break and making this a commercial success is extrememly important to 7's rugby in the US and ultimately 15's. With NBC, the Olympic network, showing the event success will be measured by how many people are in the stands and watching on TV. We need to push this hard to any and all that will listen. I'd say lets all get to Columbus and support this like we do the IRB version.

Right, I forgot bout that. This college 7s event that is being planned supports my point exactly.

Crash...so we'll see you and 15 buddies there, right?

Seriously though, I hope this event opens a wider market beyond the normal rugby types. National college rivalries wil help but good entertainment will keep people watching. In the end it may not matter to much if the quality of rugby is high this first time but it will matter to NBC if there is no one in the stands.

So crash I'll be there and will buy the first,er what do they drink in Cols...for you and your bud's...

Two things:
7s is really NOT AMENABLE to the varsity model, is it? Who is going to cross the country to sit down to a game that is going to last 14 minutes? 7s only works in a TOURNAMENT format. There's no way to have a REGULAR SEASON with, say 7 games against your conference opponents, unless ALL 8 members of your conference travel EVERY week to one of the conference sites (e.g. Laramie, Wyo.) to have their weekly tournament. No current college rugby teams could afford that model. It's insane.

The NBC 7s invitational advertises that it is presenting all the BEST collegiate rivalries. If so, who is Utah up against? Who among the invited teams is their traditional rival? Oh. BYU. Where are they? Oh, the "championship" is on ..... Sunday.
Here we go again.

JC try to think out side the box a little.
You are right that teams will not travel across the country for 14 minutes of play but since half the teams already travel every week slighhtly less than half will have to travel more often.

Also if the leagues can be more local since teams dont need to have as many high level athletes, kenya no where on IB 15's but highly ranked 7's, then they wont be traveling accross the country but hopefully accross town. So maybe 8 team leagues with 4 tourney style events leading to regional playoffs then the national 8 or 16 team format. Leading to national team selections plus potential of tv coverage every week as a highlights show that brings funding and sponsers.

I know maybe crazy thinking but why does a 60 min football game last 3 hours...TV...I'm guessing there were no time outs when they started.

I'm a 15's guy but would change given the possibilities...


Excellent point, but 7's still fits a varsity model. Just not the model set forth by football or basketball.

There is no doubt that 7's needs the tournament format, so that places the sport more in line with track & field and swimming in that respect. Both varsity sports that rely on tournament-style events for their seasons.

I like the idea of a series of tournaments (like the IRB Series) for college 7's, but how exactly do you fit that into a season or a qualifying process?

This is one of many questions that USA Rugby should already have answers to, but all they have is a plan to hire someone to make a plan.

Odds are, for the time being, there isn't going to be a pure 7's season at all. The road to a 7's National title will end up consisting of four qualifying tournaments all played on the same weekend followed by a Championship tournament with the Top 16 teams that come out of the qualifiers.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the college model is about local fan support, pep rallies, heading over to the stadium, grabbing a hot dog (or meat pie for the antipodeans) and cheering on your home team. In the TOURNAMENT model, there is ONE home game per year vs SEVEN road games! How could this work economically? How could you solicit donations to fund a stadium (or even improvements to the existing one) for precisely ONE HOME MATCH PER YEAR? How could even Jack or Stanford or Army justify such an expenditure for ONE HOME GAME PER YEAR?

How do you build a college program with such a model?

Track and Field, Golf, Swimming and Diving, Gymnastics....

These sports seem to work well in a varsity environment. Sure they are also individual sports but the fact remains they work well with limited home events.

Varsity model is about playing for your school, considering yourself a student athlete and receiving the support of your school as you pursue athletic and academic excellence. All that other stuff related to hot dogs and pep rallies is really just part of the pageantry that is a by-product of a successful program.

just bc 7s is tournament format today does not mean it need be tomorrow.

You could play three matches each week against an opponentt with your 2nd and 3rds playing between the 3 matches for a total of 7 matches over 2 and a 1/2 hours

Holy cow Dreamer, what you smokin'?

what ever he has, I want some.

Dreamer comment: Just like volleyball or tennis are played over sets, sevens could be the same. But that would be pretty greuling physically. In college I remember most swim meets, wrestling meets and track meets being multischool events. No reason you couldn't have a conference tournament every weekend at a different venue.

No college or high school program that I've ever heard of spends 87.5% of their time on the road. Most wrestling, gymnastic and swimming meets are dual meets. Some are 3-way. You just can't afford to be on the road 90% of the time, unless you get a share of the gate (presuming that the gate earns a substantial profit-enough to pay travel expenses for visiting teams).

College 7s gameday could be like this:
College 1 v. College 2 (C sides for 7 minute halves);
College 1 v. College 2 (B-sides for 7 minute halves);
College 1 v. College 2 (A sides for 10 minute halves).
That would be 48 minutes of rugby. Plus about 20 minutes of non-playing time btw matches. A little shorter than a college b-ball game beginning to end, but not much. Shorter sporting events (but with lots of action) might even better for some students and other fans. The A-sides could even play twice (once at the beginning and once at the end) to lengthen the event. As a long-time 7s player, I am used to having more than 40 minutes between matches, but I also know that a 40 minute break between the only two 7s matches you have to play in a day is not an outrageous imposition and is doable for sure.

Play best of 3 matches. Like Volleyball Have duel meets and tournaments.

Wrestling uses dual meets during the season then toruneys to crown champions.

Having seen Al Caravelli in action as both a player and coach, I think a large portion of the US's successe in 7s can be attributed to one simple thing: leadership. He has a clear mandate & adequate resources, and he takes it from there. His recruiting and expectations for his players are singular in U.S. rep side rugby. His preparation and selections are not matched by anyone.

Furthermore, 7s suits American rugby right now, with its emphasis on speed and athleticism. The 15s game, with a higher demand on strategy and cohesion, is still a bigger reach for a developing country.

Seven's rugby has an attraction that is different to XV's rugby.

Make no mistake about it - the fifteen man/women game is Rugby and it's place, Olympics or not, will not change that basic truth.

That being said, the rush to the Seven's bandwagon I find is rather surprising. To prioririze the 7's game over the 15 player version is simply not an option.

While I believe the two should, and do co-exist well, the current state of seven's rugby has taken twenty years to develop internationally, including the USA.

The IRB Seven's series is enjoying it's success due to many factors - exclusivity (only eight events internationally), the unique atmosphere, and the chance for developing nations/teams to have a go on the big stage.

Yet domestically around the world, seven's attracts minimal interest with regards to local tournaments and fan/media support.

I will say that certain tournaments do much better than others - Punte del Este, Darwin, Melrose and Suva to name a few.

But compared to Test rugby, it pales.

So back to the original question - should we prioritize 7's over 15's? NO.

Seven's should be allowed to organically develop - as the IRB Seven's has done.

Let's face it - it's a little to soon to talk big of a Collegiate Seven's circuit when there has never been a major Collegiate Seven's tournament ever held!

While I applaude the foresight of USA 7's to jump start this collegiate effort, how can we possibly expect the sort of quality competition that's required to make this a real focus or center of interest, for fans and the collective media.

Yes, it needs to start somewhere but let them play without the expectations of the sport of rugby (and the mainstream media aspirations) in the USA on their shoulders.

To me the soft option is to prioritize on the Seven's. It's an easy case to justify.

But the reality is there are only 8 IRB Seven's series tournaments a year, and one Olympics every four. For everyone.

Worldwide, there are over 100 internationals and Tests played every year. The USA played in nine last year. And that does not include the women' and collegiates/age grade teams.

While I concede the XV's game is the tougher option and the economics are far more difficult for the scarce resources we have available in the USA, one simply can not opt out of the game of Rugby or diminish its place within our sport.

After all, the Seven's are known as the Seven's for a reason......the XV's are Rugby.

Dan Payne does a good show this week on www.ruggamatrixusa.com
It is worth a listen

Bruce, I dont know if you saw my comment a couple posts ago. But if you did I wasnt being sarcastic. You have talked often about the difference between "drills coaches" and the type of coaching at nyac and other elite clubs. Putting players in game type situations and having them make decisions. I dont think most coaches do a lot of drills just because they are lazy. It would be great if you could expand on this in a podcast or article or on here. Thanks

7s has a better chance to become a varsity sport than 15s because of the Olympics, low numbers required and crossover athletes. A sprinter or football player on scholarship that is not performing as expected can crossover to 7s and have success. Until 7s becomes so advanced that only high school rugby players can succeed. A university in one of the big athletic conferences could assemble a 7s rugby team with their scrap scholarship athletes that would be pretty good within one year with full time quality coaching. You could easily have 36 universities up and running with men's and women's teams by spring 2012.

i did post this in the previous thread, kurt wrote a new article shortly after, so i just copied it, if you want anything else or a clarification, you can call or email me.

A couple of things that we do that is game like without all the kicking butt would be

1. Play rough touch with the initial defender retreating to the far sideline and allowing a contest for the ball from the next player in, ball carrier must go down and do a score the try technique and either rip back and present or use a squeeze ball. Early on you may not want to allow turnovers. Attack usually puts 1,2,or 3 over depending on numbers in the game, you can allow kicking to provide depth if you want.
in this you look for guys to be set up to hit the next phase in attack so they work off the ball and you look for the defense to reset onsides and be ready for the next phase of play.

2. we do a lot of channel touch where we break the field into 3 channels, it can be equal or at the 15's, early on equal size channels work, what you do is allow only 2 phases in a channel and then they must go to another channel or it is a turnover. sometimes we allow one phase in the middle and 3 on the sides, but usually 2 in the middle and 2-4 down the sides.

3. we do dropoff touch where we may play 9 v 9 cross field, touched player must go down and place with score the try technique and no one over, just a HB and defense reset. in a 9 v 9 game, we would give 3 defenders #1, 3 get #2, 3 get #3 and when the coach calls a number those players must retreat to the goal line and get back in play, initially we used it as a drill for attack to recognize and exploit opportunity, the players however thought it was a defensive communication drill so it actually was great for both sides of the ball.

We play the offload game, where a guy gets tagged and must offload before he gets tagged again by another player or before he takes a 3rd step after being tagged, if there is no one to offload to, go down and reset with score the try technique, 2nd time in a row that happens is a turnover.

we play rough touch from live set pieces and you can either have the defender retreat to sideline or back, or you can have defender hit deck and get up to play. often we will have the B side go live on defense in the set, but not allow the A side to contest the LO and the scrum they hit and lock to give them a better chance to attack.

we put 12-15 bags out and just go up and down the field using our pattern and clearing out live, if they make a mistake or are lazy, we chuck a ball 20-30 yards back and make them play from there. (this takes a lot out of guys)

we will stress the defense for instance we may put the 1st side 9-10-15 and wings with the 2nds so that they operate efficiently and the players left over must play defense along the field with 10 or 11 guys and cover the whole place with 2 guys in the tackle zone (rough touch), it facilitates communication and speeds up the play of the 2nds. it is important to build into this, initially only move the 10 and maybe a wing, then maybe add 15, then the other wing, and then 9 (he is the cop coordinating the defense so we move him last)
this is a great exercise because players must work things out under pressure and they can start to complain and blame, so you can nip all that in the bud, before it happens in a big game.

in the pack we may do live driving mauls to practice scoring, we do live pick and go to practice scoring, we do live scrums with back row moves to train scoring. all of these things where we train scoring are similar to when we train our exit strategies to get a good kick away.

the backs and back row play a rough touch game while the tight 5 works on tight work, it is more flowing and open

the backs play a kicking game to sort out kick chase, it has scoring depending on how you run, catch or kick out of trouble.

the pack does live LO where the A side tells the B side the call and they still have to win the ball.

we work on defensive roles rough touch through 1-2 phases and show a multitude of looks

basically we just want to keep people moving and get them to understand things within the context of the game

the key things, we have coaches looking at both sides of the ball in attack and defense

we don't allow a score unless everyone gets over the line within 5 seconds of crossing the line to ensure that we chase all breaks

we call a turnover if players do not use the score the try placement technique.

in the event of turnovers we play our turnover policy, and sometimes we will tell a player in a game that the 1st or 2nd time that you touch the ball to turn it over so that we see the team play from turnover ball and we see how the attack reacts when ball is turned over.

hope this helps

Ray, I agree with you that 7's pales in comparison to Test rugby - but this really only applies to the initiated rugby fan/devotee.

If you sat down your average American sports fan in front of a TV (with no knowledge of rugby), and showed them both Test rugby and 7's rugby side-by-side -- they would choose 7's every time.

The 7s game is infinitely easy to understand and follow as opposed to the tactical nuance of 15s, fast-paced and high-scoring, as opposed to reset scrums and TMO reviews and penalty shootouts.

Sure, there's the logistical challenge of the tournament format vs. the one game format, but the game itself is more appealing to the short attention span audience of today, who demand high-energy and fast action.

I love 15s, but you've got to understand your market, and if we're to grow the game here, it will be through 7's. The American sports market doesn't have the patience to sit and learn the technically complex nature of 15s.

I mean, guys like you and Brian enjoy cricket and think the NCAA tournament is boring (I couldn't resist...). I guess you'll sit through anything! But that opinion isn't reflective of the market that we need to tap into to grow the game.

However, we can still build the full game and if managed well, 15s should grow on the back of any 7s success.

Correction -- "pales in comparison" is a bit strong, but the intensity, passion and history makes Test rugby a more intense and passion-filled event. The longer all-day format of 7's seems to dilute that passion and intensity a bit.

"Ray, I agree with you that 7's pales in comparison to Test rugby - but this really only applies to the initiated rugby fan/devotee.

If you sat down your average American sports fan in front of a TV (with no knowledge of rugby), and showed them both Test rugby and 7's rugby side-by-side -- they would choose 7's every time."

I personally think if you sat your average American sports fan in front of a TV and showed them both soccer and XV rugby, they would choose XV rugby most of the time due to its manliness and similarities to football, but soccer is the sport that became semi-popular here and rugby didn't.

Bruce, thanks so much. That is some great stuff.

I listened to the podcast with I think Dan Payne and I tried to grasp this 'score the try' technique for ball placement. I'm not sure I have it. I'm picturing a player driving hard straight ahead with the ball, and when he is told to go down by support he continues to drive as he goes to deck so that he is still facing straight ahead. At this point are you saying he should extend even further so that the ball is near his upper body? And then somehow get it back using the "rip back" or squeeze (which I do understand)? If you have time, clarification on this would be awesome. Just on 'score the try' and 'ripping back'

Essentially you want your player to find a seam and keep moving forward, that means running at space or branches, not trees.

instead of on contact starting the process of going backward around the head as they go down, the player lunges forward in a similar manner to scoring a try, falling on the ball and then either
1 ripping back violently from the core to place the ball in control
2 lifting a leg and laying the egg, kind of like a side on place (if tied up) there is a good youtube video of this technique by eamonn hogan who has done a lot of contact work in the usa, he is terrific and easily accessible on facebook, a great resource.
3 squeeze ball

too many players wait for the defense to do something to the ball carrier before supporting, if the player is T boned or tied up, it is best to latch on while the player is on their feet to help drive him through contact (some go from behind, my pref is shoulder to shoulder), if we wait the ruck is usually slow or messy or both.

in the clearout what dan was saying is
sometimes you just get to clear a guy pretty standard
if he is over the ball, you may need to roll him out
if he is flopped you may need to forklift or just blast him (blasting him can get you into trouble though as heads tend to be below hips and refs ping it, ideally the ref pings the no roll and we have less of the mucks and more of the rucks

the advantage to score the try is that it forces defenders to go much further backward to get through the gate and therefore facilitates quick ball

the second advantage is that you are focusing your energy primarily forward and that also helps your support players to come from behind and through the gate with power to further produce quick ball

if that doesn't explain it, just say so and i will try to be more clear

Da Truth....
Good points and I concur in many ways with you. It is an easy learn and can be an exciting contest, just what the average American sports punter is looking for.

An example of what you are maybe alluding to occurred in Australia this past week. The first ever ARU National Schools Seven's championship was played in Sydney and a rugby league school from the Gold Coast won the lot.

Keebra Park High School is one of Australia's top league schools, producing a number of current NRL and rep stars. It was their first ever go at Rugby and after winning the Queensland title, beat all-comers in Sydney.

As Robbie Deans said, "Isn't it great they are playing Rugby!"

What it does tell me is that Seven's is closer to rugby league, tactically and athletically than rugby.

Granted, one tournament is definately not empirical evidence, but if you look at the far better defensive patterns and the young crop of players coming through, it is analogous.

This type of crossover will be occuring more and more with Seven's - not just here and with other sports, but elsewhere throughout the world. New talent, not traditionally associated with rugby will have opportunities.

This can only be good for the game.

It will require a lot of good thought on how to bring Seven's to a wider marketplace, if it's determined that Seven's is a better "product".

i suspect that maybe it will be in the future, in much the way 20/20 cricket is spreading the game into new markets and generating real enthusiasm.

But I still believe that the new Collegiate premier league may be the driver to bring all of rugby to a greater national awareness.

the dangerous elephant in the room (to those who prefer 15s) - 7s is perfectly tailored to the structure of US TV. 3x14min matches = 42/60th of an hour - 18min/hr & at least 3 stoppages btw matches to sell bud lite/viagra/cars...15s is an almost a non-starter in US not just culturally but perhaps most importantly for marketing/advertising purposes, it doesnt fit US TV structure- 80 minute continual flow match w/ 1 planned stoppage in 80 minutes. IMO, that's the elephant that's going to need to be "broken" before 15s can ascend in US. If no solution is in the offing as to how to fit 15s into TV broadcast time, you'll get no TV, which means no corporate $, which means no professionalization inside US...US Football solved it by having downs/punts/turnovers/coaches timeouts/scheduled TV timeouts at predetermined intervals...which allows things to be sold to us as we sit & drink beer & what also makes US football infinitely inferior to rugby as a spectators sport - it's continual & purposeful action. Just be careful not to kill the golden goose (purity of 15s rugby) to make it fit US TV marketing norms - that's going to be a tricky needle to thread... advantage: 7s - 7s looks to be ready to take the graft onto US sports scene based on inherent time structure advantage for marketing purposes (not to mention the Olympic inclusion)

I don't really see the value of the WC if tournament doesn't get quality broadcasting.

Test rugby has gotten pretty dull in my opinion - the lack of time and space on the field for the attacking side since teams began adopting rugby league style defenses (stringing players across the field and committing few players to rucks and mauls) combined with the questionable benefits of the ELV's has made for some pretty boring games with fewer tries and monotonous play.

7's has gotten more interesting as the game has become more physical without losing speed.

That 7's is in the Olympics assures at least some mainstream coverage that 15's lacks.

Unless the IRB is serious about getting the RWC out in front of a broader audience (not to mention addressing issues around getting the game less static) I think over time the non traditional rugby countries will gravitate towards 7's while 15's will remain the bastion of the old guard.

back to the college discussion- this week's Sports Illustrated contains a stat that the University of Utah women's gymnastics team averaged over 14,000 fans at their home events this season. Unless the girls are competing naked, how is that possible? I would like to think that college rugby could get as many fans as women's gymnastics, but maybe I am missing something.

If you think 7s doesn't fit varsity type events has never been to a track and field meet.

really appreciate it Bruce. Thanks

Ray, I had seen that schools competition story in the news, and saw that the League press were going nuts!

I'm not sure about 7's being closer to league tactically, but surely it must be closer athletically and skill-wise (other than the different fitness profile).

If you posses the core rugby skills used in both codes (catch/pass, defense, tackle, kick) then you'd think they'd be transferable from league > 7's. Obviously, the ruck would be a foreign concept, but 7's rucks are usually pretty simple as far as decision-making and technique goes.

Tactically, I think the game would be a bit foreign as well, but 7's patterns aren't exactly rocket science. Probably the most vital part is being able to execute them under pressure and completely gassed. That said, these were high school kids -- do they even get gassed!!!??

In fact, I was about to say that I'm surprised that there aren't more league players in Oz that transition into 15s through 7s -- but it hit me -- no money in 7s!

The first year that league and union buried its century old feud, 1996 (I think), Wigan rugby league side won the Middlesex Sevens (England's premier 7's tournament) at Twickenham. And the Bradford Bulls have also won it since.

Rugby league and Sevens have a very similar skills set.

When I visited the Italian RFU last October - on the day the IOC voted Sevens in for the Olympics in 2016 - it stated that henceforth it would "dedicate" a group of its younger players for Sevens' play. Perhaps this is a hybrid model for the USA, also. Remember, Sevens will be in the Pan Am Games in Mexico in 2011. The question becomes how will the USA find, coach, and fund two streams of players to compete internationally?

I hear ya, how are we going to compete?

I agree, it is time to call back Johnson's journeymen and those League mongrels.

League and 7's are different skill sets.

League specializes in catching the ball running straight, passing a flat ball a few meters, delivering shoulder charges, pushing people to the floor, laying on them, cherry picking passes, and kicking the ball 30 meters aimlessly after a few cracks at the line.

Those skills are not trained in 7's.

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