Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Front is home to a rich rugby tradition that has produced some of the best talent in the nation, so it’s no surprise Utah Rugby has a history of success on the pitch. The Scrummin’ Utes notched another accolade this month with its appearance in the Collegiate Rugby 7s Championships (CRC) in Philadelphia. There they reached the semi-finals of the plate bracket and went 3-2 in the tournament of 24 teams.
In 2010, Utah won the CRC sevens title and finished 3rd in 2011. In rugby union, Utah has finished No. 2 in the nation three times and reached the semi-finals four times since 2002.
The distinction between “sevens” and “rugby union” is the amount of players on the paddock. In rugby union, which is the mainstream format, each team has 15 players on the field. In sevens, there only seven players to a side. With fewer players, sevens is the faster version in both the speed of the game’s style and length. The dimensions of the playing surface do not change from union, so there’s still plenty of room for breakaways and sprints for tries (rugby’s version of touchdowns). With all the running, it’s hard to keep up a competitive pace for 80 minutes (the length of a standard union match), so each half in sevens is only 10 minutes with a two-minute break.
It makes for some very entertaining action and digestible television content—NBC aired six CRC matches in two hours—which might have been the driving force in the decision to make sevens the game of choice when the International Olympic Committee brought rugby back to the Summer Olympics after a 92-year hiatus.
While sports like lacrosse and hockey are club teams, as is rugby, at the U, these sports are NCAA-sanctioned at other universities. However, rugby is unique in that there is no NCAA or “varsity” version. So even though Utah Rugby is a club sport, supported by Campus Recreation, the Scrummin’ Utes play on the sport’s highest U.S. collegiate level. And there’s a possibility that one U alumnus from the 2010 sevens national championship team, Thretton Palamo, will be heading to Rio to play on the world’s highest level in the Olympics. We’ll keep you updated if and when that happens.