The IRB Sevens World Series, known officially as the IRB Sevens before the 2006-07 season and also sometimes called the World Sevens Series, is a series of international rugby union sevens tournaments organised for the first time in the 1999-2000 season. The tournaments, run by the International Rugby Board, feature national sevens teams. The series was first formed to develop an elite-level competition series between rugby nations and develop the Sevens game into a viable commercial product of the IRB. In 2005-06, the tour received 1147 hours of air time, 530 of which was live, and was broadcast to 136 countries.
Teams compete for the Sevens World Series title by accumulating points based on their finishing position in each tournament. Each season's circuit currently consists of eight tournaments in seven countries, and visits five of the six populated continents. The United Arab Emirates, South Africa, New Zealand, United States, the Chinese region of Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland each host one event. Depending on the venue and scheduling of the quadrennial Rugby World Cup Sevens, one of the tournaments may be folded into the World Cup. For example, because the 2005 World Cup was held in Hong Kong and scheduled for roughly the same time as the annual Hong Kong Sevens, the Hong Kong Sevens was folded into the World Cup. However, none of the 2008-09 events will be folded into the 2009 World Cup, as that year's World Cup will fall three weeks after the USA Sevens and three weeks before the Hong Kong Sevens.
Sevens is a stripped-down version of rugby union with seven players each side on a normal-sized field, rather than the normal fifteen. Games are much shorter, lasting only seven or ten minutes each half, and tend to be very fast-paced, open, affairs. Sevens is traditionally played in a two-day tournament format, with the Hong Kong Sevens (an anomaly as a three-day event) being the most famous. The game is quicker and higher-scoring than 15-a-side rugby and the rules are far simpler, which explains part of its appeal. It also gives players the space for superb feats of individual skill. New Zealand and Fiji are traditionally the strongest teams, although in recent years Argentina, Australia, England, France and South Africa have all won tournaments, and Samoa ran the two favourites very close for the World Series title in the 2006-07 season.
|Season||Rounds||Champion||Top Scorer||Most tries|
|2005-06||8||(114 points)||Ben Gollings (343)||Timoteo Iosua (40)|
|2006-07||8||(130 points)||William Ryder (416)||Mikaele Pesamino (43)|
|2007-08||8||(154 points)||Tomasi Cama (319)||Fabian Juries (41)|
Four trophies are awarded in each tournament, except for Hong Kong. In descending order of prestige, they are the Cup, whose winner is the overall tournament champion, Plate, Bowl and Shield. In Hong Kong, the Shield is not awarded. Each trophy is awarded at the end of a knockout tournament.
In a normal event, the top two teams in each pool advance to the Cup competition. The four quarterfinal losers drop into the bracket for the Plate. The Bowl is contested by the third and fourth-place finishers in each pool, while the Shield is Contested by the losing quarter-finalists of the bowl.
In Hong Kong, the six pool winners, plus the two highest-finishing second-place teams, advance to the Cup. The Plate participants are the eight highest-ranked teams remaining, while the lowest eight drop to the Bowl.
Points are awarded on a different schedule in a 24-team event, such as Hong Kong:
If two or more teams are level on series points at the end of the season, the following tiebreakers are used to determine placement: