It’s true: USA Rugby’s seasonal 15s championships can be confusing, especially to the rugby newcomer. That means no more national championships (unless you’re in NSCRO or NIRA), but it does mean areas of the country are playing 15s when it makes sense for them, specifically in terms of weather and school year configuration.
But what about 7s? Sevens seems to have found its home at the end of the school year, and that set-up fits nicely with those teams that play fall 15s, or have the flexibility to adjust their spring-timed national championship (i.e., DI Elite). But spring 15s programs are either having to choose between national 7s qualification or play one of these hybrid 7s/15s seasons that end up being very taxing timing and money wise.
This topic resurfaced during an interview with UGA head coach Lindsay White, who graduated from Ohio State in 2015, when the Buckeyes played loads of 7s, and excelled. The following is what the Bulldogs’ schedule looks like should they achieve their 15s and 7s goals:
- March 23-24: SIRC finals, New Orleans (finished 2nd)
- April 13: SIRC 7s AQ, Marietta, Ga.
- April 20-21: Spring 15s regional championship (R16/8), Greenville, N.C.
- May 3-4: Spring 15s championship (SF & final), Matthews, N.C.
- May 26-28: National 7s championship, Tucson, Ariz.
Maybe this schedule is doable for a club college program if it’s circulated at the beginning of the year, but the reality is that a lot of this logistical information is decided in-season, which can escalate costs and stress. DI Elite saw the light and moved its national championship back a month to early April, so its members could properly transition to 7s, but don’t be surprised if its 15s national championship moves to the fall next year.
As for UGA, White lamented, it is currently weighing whether it can pursue both 7s and 15s, which feels wrong.
But what if these spring 15s programs could pursue a fall 7s championship? It certainly makes sense schedule wise – allocating each version of the sport its own season – and as White argued, 7s is a great preparation tool for 15s. Those individual skills sharpen, and 7s isn’t as taxing physically, and therefore wouldn’t necessarily burn out bodies. One might also argue that it’d be a good recruitment tool, featuring the more decipherable version of the sport while newcomers are considering it. Additionally, this activity would give spring conference commissioners an advance look at the strength of its members, so future forfeit-ers might show themselves and accommodations can be made for 15s.
While this makes sense theoretically, the question is whether there are enough to teams that would pursue this competitive course in lieu of a longer build to their spring 15s season. Conversely, teams that had been competing in the national 7s championship might object to the replacement of “national” with “spring,” not that that hasn’t happened before.
Possible solution? Find existing fall tournaments (Rucktoberfest, Heart of Dixie, Scrum by the Sea, etc.) and add a fall 7s qualifier bracket for spring 15s teams. Have the fall 7s championship venue and dates selected by the end of the previous season, and – most importantly – circulate that information with gusto, not just to conference commissioners or team presidents. Publicize the at-large process, draft an ideal bracket, and have an FAQ on the website.
In one had all of that information well in advance, then teams and leagues could be polled, and no harm would result if it – or any proposal – was rejected. The congestion of 7s and 15s at the end of the collegiate season is a well documented complaint. Maybe teams would be up for a shake-up.