The competitors looked like typical hard-nosed rugby players, the field dimensions measured the same as a traditional rugby field, and players passed around a normal rugby ball, but this was anything but typical rugby.
The Kansas City area welcomed a growing brand of rugby on Saturday, as Children’s Mercy Victory Field at Swope Park was the site of the Heartland 7s Rugby Tournament.
With basically the same rules as traditional 15-man rugby, Sevens rugby features seven players per side and seven-minute halves. The action on Saturday was nearly non-stop and saw the ball being passed and kicked, players tackling and juking each other, complete with scrums, penalties, tries and scores.
Think of Sevens as a combination of football, soccer and wresting, featuring the decision-making of basketball.
“Compared to 15-man rugby, there’s obviously a lot more running and it’s a lot more fast-paced. It’s just pure action,” said Kenny Scott, a member of the Kansas City Blues rugby club, which hosted the tournament. “On defense, you don’t have the support on the inside or outside of you, so it depends on each man doing his job. It’s a lot more tiring, so you try to maintain possession when you have the ball, tire out the other team and try to get the game in your favor.”
While traditional rugby boasts a range of athletes all shapes and sizes, those on the field Saturday were extremely fit and looked like regulars in the weight room and on the track.
“In Sevens, it’s all about having those burners, having those guys who can run — not jog — for 14 minutes,” said Gannon Moore, one of the Blues’ top players. “You’re able to turn those athletes loose a little more. It’s a lot more flashy, fast-paced and high scoring. That’s the difference, as 15s is an 80-minute game. You’re not going to see any of those big boys you do in 15s.”
Sevens rugby will make its debut as an Olympic sport next month in Brazil and is helping the sport in general, 15-man or seven-man, become one of the fastest growing in the world. Last Saturday’s event drew the attendance of USA Rugby’s Howard Kent, who is a scout for the national Sevens team and selects the regional all-star team that Scott and Moore play on.
“This is the 10th year the Blues have done this, so they’re getting good at it,” Kent said. “They have a great support staff and this facility is top-notch. The difficult thing is getting the non-rugby people to come out and watch us, but once they do they love it. There’s a lot of action and it’s an entertaining game to watch.”