|By Oneal Hector D'Cunha, Abu Dhabi [ Published Date: March 21, 2009 ]|
Some of my friends from the West often remarked that test cricket was quite a boring game, which I used to vehemently dispute, until I was invited to watch a Rugby tournament recently. Fortunately I did not have to travel far and wide as the Dubai Rugby Sevens was just round the corner, happening right here in the UAE. I was obviously not a great Rugby fan until I watched one and therefore had to pick my ropes on the basics of the game to decipher on what was happening on the field.
Rugby Sevens is a variant of the Rugby Union in which teams are made up of Seven players, instead of the usual Fifteen. The game originated in Melrose, Scotland in 1883, where an annual tournament is still being conducted. Some of the other best known Sevens competitions are the Hong Kong Sevens, Wellington Sevens, and the Dubai Sevens which now make up parts of the Sevens World Series like the Formula one series that occurs around the world.
Rugby Sevens is sanctioned by the International Rugby Board and is played under the same rules and on a field of the same dimensions as the Fifteen player game. While a normal Rugby Union match lasts at least 80 minutes, a normal Sevens match consists of two halves of seven minutes with a one-minute half-time break. This allows Rugby tournaments to be completed in a day or a weekend like our 20/20 cricket series. The emphasis on Sevens is speed ball-handling and fitness.
This year 24 teams took part in the Dubai Rugby Sevens World Cup event between March 5-7th in Dubai and the men's teams being Arabian Gulf (host), Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga, Tunisia, United States, Uruguay, Wales and Zimbabwe. While in the women's it was a debut in Dubai with 16 teams from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Uganda and United States.
The crowd was in excess of 30,000 and was witnessing a nail biting finish between most teams on the third and the final day and it appeared that they dismissed all thoughts on global recession and gone back to the old Greek philosophy of ‘a sound mind in a sound body' and the Darwins theory of ‘survival of the fittest'. The winners in the Men's finals was Wales and in the Women's finals it was Australia.
Sevens Rugby is more of a festival than a mere tournament. There are several activities around the event and a dedicated pavilion for families. The cheerleaders and the mascot ‘Saba'a the Camel' kept the pitch alive through their action packed aerobics and antics between each game and during the breaks. The fancy dress parade by some spectators were witty. Children under 12 are admitted free and there are hosts of activities for them at the Rugby Village. In the UK, an old saying goes "Football is a gentleman's game played by ruffians and Rugby is a ruffian's game played by gentlemen" and having watched one, I agree.
Photography: Oneal Hector D’Cunha and Samson Pereira