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The Spread of the Sevens


Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. Other clubs soon realised the value of the football tournament, it being extremely difficult to maintain a club on gate money and subscriptions only. They also realised the attraction of so competitive a form of rugby for players and spectators. In 1884 Galashiels F.C. introduced a seven-a-side tournament into its calendar and in the best Border tradition won its own first tournament. In 1885 the first non-Border club to win such a tournament, Tynedale, did so at Gala. Hawick sports began in 1885, Tynedale providing the winning seven. Jedforest was the next Border club to introduce a seven-a-side competition and in 1894 Hawick won the first Jedburgh Sports. In 1908 Langholm followed suit with Gala taking the honours.
By this time clubs from furth of the Borders were being invited to play. St. George, popularly known as the Dragons, appeared at Melrose as early as 1887 while Heriots came in 1892. Stewarts, Watsonians and Carlisle were invited in 1893.
The next development was for tournaments to be run out-with the Borders. Four border clubs were invited in the month of June to inaugurate St. George's tournament, which Melrose won, and in 1909 and 1910 Edinburgh Institution and from 1910 to 1914 Newington, a junior club, ran tournaments.
After the 1914-1918 war there was further expansion, locally and nationally. The Selkirk Sports began in 1919, Kelso in 1920 and Earlston and Peebles in 1923. There were now eight Border Sports falling into the Spring Sevens and the Autumn Sevens, each match of the series being played on fixed Saturdays.
In 1920 the Royal High School ran a tournament in the Scottish Rugby Union's field in Edinburgh to aid a War Memorial Fund. This objective promoted Edinburgh Institution in 1921 and Kelvinside Academicals in 1922 to stage tournaments. The Edinburgh Borderers began their tournament at Granton in 1922. On 21st February, 1923, several Edinburgh Clubs met and decided to stage a tournament on 7th April in aid of an Edinburgh Charity. Thus began the Infirmary Sevens. Other Clubs, East and West, North and South, introduced tournaments. The climax was reached in 1973 when the first International Tournament was held at Murrayfield ninety years after the first tournament in Melrose.


With Tynedale and Carlisle being invited to the early Border Sports it was natural that seven-a-side competitions should first blossom in the North of England. In 1921 Melrose lost to Selkirk in the final of the Percy Park Sports at North Shields. Rockcliffe and Northumberland both received permission to hold sevens on 17th March, 1922, from the English union as did Carlisle in January, 1923. On 26th August, 1925, Middlesex County was granted permission to stage a sevens competition and the first was held at Twickenham on 24th April, 1926. It was a Scot, Dr. J. A. Russell Cargill, whose enthusiasm for the game stirred the interests of rugby followers in the south and so started the now famous Middlesex Sevens.
In Wales seven-a-side rugby is widely played but when it was introduced is not known exactly. It received semi-official recognition with the introduction of the Snelling Seven-a-side Competition in 1954. In 1966 The Welsh Rugby Union National Sevens were begun. In Ireland this form of Rugby is not widely played. A Dublin Junior Club has for some twenty years organised a junior sevens tournament in aid of charity and in recent years Old Belvedere has held a tournament for senior clubs.


In addition to the British Isles, seven-a-side rugby is now played all over the world in such widely distributed places as Fiji, Argentina, Canada, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Malawai and New Zealand. Of the tournaments held in these countries the one in Hong Kong is certainly the best known, with teams of international strength competing. In 1980 and 1981 Scotland have been represented there by the Co-optimists, who were runners-up in 1980 to Fiji, and in 1981 lost in the semi-final to Australia, who in turn were beaten in the final by the Barbarians.

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