The first matches of Qatar’s new rugby sevens league will kick off this weekend as part of a move to widen the appeal of what is becoming one of the world’s most popular sports.
The inaugural league will include seven teams that will play against each other twice over nine weeks to try to take the title of league champions, the Qatar Rugby Federation said.
The rules are different from traditional rugby, in that there are fewer players on the pitch and the match is short.
Thus, it is seen as being a more action-packed, spectator-friendly sport.
The league has been set up following successful events in Dubai and the Qatar National Day rugby sevens, which served as a tester for the new league, organizers said.
For the first time, both men’s and women’s versions of the sport will be played at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
Qatar’s league will launch Saturday, Feb. 6, from 6pm at Aspire’s warm-up track, where all the games will be played.
The teams competing in the league are: Al Khor, Blue Falcons, Camels 1, Camels 2, CNAQ, Doha Rugby Football Club (DRFC) Hurricanes and Doha Lions.
There are a total of four matches scheduled for the first day – Camels 1 vs Lions, CNQA vs Camels 2, Blue Falcons vs DRFC Hurricanes and two under-14 sides – Dukhan School vs Blue Falcons juniors, from Lycée Bonaparte.
In addition to the sport on the pitch, there will be entertainment for families and children, including music, prizes and giveaways. The public event is free entry.
Launching the championship yesterday, QRF President Yousef Al Kuwari said the goal is to further develop the league in the coming years, and to attract more players to the game in the country and throughout the region.
“We hope the Qatar rugby community will come down and support their favorite team and this wonderful sport we admire so much,” he added in a statement.
While many of the rules in rugby sevens are similar to those in Rugby Union (which is played with 15-aside), there are some clear differences – including the size of teams and length of matches.
As its name suggests, there are seven players on each side and the game is short and intense. The match only has 14 minutes of play – seven minutes each half, with a one-minute break.
“It’s fast, furious and never short of action. The open space allows for more running and fancy passing. There is more risk-taking from the team with the ball, which also pleases the crowd, and tries are scored in the blink of an eye,” QRF coordinator Samuel Rico told Doha News.
Players try to gain points by scoring a try (which is similar to an American football touchdown) for which they get five points, a conversion which gets them two points, or through penalties and drop-goals for three points.
All conversions must be taken within 40 seconds of the try being scored and must be taken as a drop goal rather than a place kick.
A penalty will result in a scrum, which involves three forwards binding together and interlocking their heads and arms. The scrum-half gets the ball into the channel between them and retrieves the ball from the back of the scrum.
If a ball goes out of bounds, then there is a lineout, which involves two or three players, with a player throwing the ball back into play.
Each team is only allowed five reserves per game, and can only make three changes during the course of the game.
Speaking about the challenges facing the teams preparing for the new league, Isaac Banks, player and manager of DRFC Hurricanes said in a statement:
“We’ve been playing a lot of 15s rugby with some of our team also playing a lot of sevens. We have been focusing on conditioning our bodies for the rigors of sevens which is a much faster game. It involves more running. We understand it will be less physical, more aerobic, so we’ve had to tailor our strategy accordingly.
“We hope to perform well, but we’re quite unsure what we’ll face. It’s what makes it so exciting,” he added.
Who’s going? Thoughts?