Origins of Sevens Rugby
While the IRB deserves credit for creating a World Sevens Series to spread the game of rugby around the globe, it is a 19 th century Scottish butcher and his apprentice who were the real architects of what modern day fans now know as Sevens Rugby.
In 1883, a rugby committee met in the small Scottish town of Melrose to consider organising an athletics meeting or sports day to raise funds at the end of the rugby season. It was at this meeting that the local butchers apprentice and Melrose 20-a-side quarterback, Ned Haig, suggested having a rugby tournament as part of the sports day.
To run a tournament for 20-a-side teams was, however, considered unworkable and it was at this point that Ned's boss, David Sanderson, mentioned playing in a tournament over the Border that required reduced numbers of players in each team.
Subsequently, on 28 April 1883, seven clubs took part in the Melrose seven-a-side tournament, with the time of each match limited to 15 minutes. The tournament was an instant hit with the public and about 1,600 tickets were sold on the day. Fittingly, Haig and Sanderson (captain) were members of the Melrose team that eventually won the competition. The victory, though, was not without controversy.
Sanderson led the Melrose team from the field after personally scoring the first try in extra time, while the Gala team protested that the full period of extra time had not been played. Galaâs protests proved fruitless, with the Melrose team steadfast in their opinion that it was their tournament and they were, therefore, the ones that made the rules.
The popularity of Sevens Rugby has continued to grow apace since the tournament in Melrose. It is worth noting, though, that the idea of a sevens tournament is not the only legacy of the Melrose butcher and his apprentice. Today, the World Sevens Series still follows the rule that the first team to score in extra time is the winner of the match.