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What is rugby sevens?
1:04 | Olympics
What is rugby sevens?
Dan Gartland
Saturday August 6th, 2016

Pulling for your country in the the Olympics sometimes means pretending to care about a sport you know nothing about. It’s easy to root for a team in basketball or soccer, but what about field hockey or synchronized swimming? 

To help you pretend like you know something about the more obscure Olympic sports, we’ll be bringing you guides for idiots novices so you can fake your way through a conversation or pretend like you know what’s happening while you watch. Previously: handball. Today: rugby sevens.

What the hell is it?

Rugby sevens is traditional rugby all jacked up on amphetamines. While traditional rugby is a bruising 15-on-15 grind, sevens is rugby for people with ADHD—the game is much shorter and the action is much faster. The field is the same size, giving the players much more room to operate. 

The game only lasts 15 minutes (seven-minute halves with a minute for halftime), so make sure you don’t turn it on late—you might miss everything. 

Why should you care?

If you spend the 15 minutes it takes to watch a game and decide it’s not for you, whatever. But you might just get sucked in by the frantic pace and find yourself hooked. 

Beyond the game itself, there are a couple of interesting stories worth following. One of the guys on the U.S. team is current Patriots safety Nate Ebner, who’s skipping training camp to play. Kenya’s Collins Injera is the all-time leader in sevens tries (scores), and once ruined a $94,000 camera with his signature

Is the U.S. any good?

Sort of. They won’t be favored to win a medal, but the Americans did win the Sevens World Series tournament in London last spring. They finished the season in sixth place after finishing 13th the year before. 

The U.S. women finished sixth in the World Series this season. 

The U.S. has one of the most exciting players in the tournament in Carlin Isles. He’s so fast that he considered attempting to qualify for the Olympics as a sprinter. He also had a brief NFL tryout with the Lions. 

Rio disaster threat level

On a scale of “unfinished infrastructure” to “favela inferno,” what are the odds this is event is a spectacular failure?

Tires at Low Tide

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

It’s hard to mess up an event played on grass at a stadium, but this is the first time rugby has been played at the Olympics since 1924. The gold medal game that year “was marred by a pitch invasion at the end with police having to protect the visitors and provide security at the medal ceremony.”

Who’s the favorite?

Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are the top teams on the men’s side. The Kiwis, Aussies, British and Canadians are the top women’s side. Here’s the thing, though: Since the game is so short, it’s tough to predict sevens. 

If you’re looking for a team to root for, pick Fiji, the country that has never won an Olympic medal.

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