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Rugby was originally part of the Olympic program in 1900 and was also contested at the 1908, 1920 and 1924 Games. The version of rugby played at these early Games was 15-a-side, often referred to as rugby union. In October 2009, the IOC voted to add rugby, along with golf, to the 2016 and 2020 Olympic program. This version of rugby, however, will be seven-a-ride, also known as rugby sevens. It may be the less traditional version of rugby, but rugby sevens has become increasingly popular throughout the world. The trimmed down version of rugby has allowed countries with relatively little rugby union success to develop competitive teams in sevens. A country like Kenya for example may not field an elite 15-a-side squad, but the African nation has become one of the top teams in sevens.

Rugby union vs. sevens

While there are certainly difference between rugby union and rugby sevens, the Olympic sport closely resembles rugby union. Games are played are the same size field — a rectangular, 120 by 70 meters pitch — and points are still worth the same — a try is worth five points and a conversion goal is two. The halves are shorter in sevens: two seven-minute halves in sevens, as opposed to 40-minute halves in the more traditional version. With such short games, teams can play multiple games in a day. The 12-team Rio tournaments will be completed in four days. At the 15-a-side Rugby World Cup, the 20-team tournament typically lasts about two weeks. The difference in the number of players on the field often creates high-scoring, fast-paced Games.