A shorter version of rugby involving teams of seven players competing over two seven-minute halves has grown in popularity and importance. The game began in Scotland in 1883 and was played spasmodically, often at the beginning of the rugby season, during the 20th century. It became more significant following the establishment of the Hong Kong Sevens in 1976, followed by the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993 and the World Sevens series in 1999. The series consists of multiple tournaments across the world, including a New Zealand round. Tournaments are held over a weekend and feature a carnival atmosphere with the crowd donning fancy dress.
Under the influence of former coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand was spectacularly successful, winning 12 of the 18 sevens championships up to 2017. Sevens rugby was included in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, and since then New Zealand has won five gold medals and a silver in six tournaments. New Zealand also won the Sevens World Cup in 2001. In 2016 sevens became an Olympic sport, and the New Zealand men’s and women’s teams qualified for the Rio games. Expected to bring home a medal, the men were knocked out in the quarter-finals by the eventual gold medallists, Fiji. The women’s team reached the final and took home silver after losing to Australia. The Black Ferns had their revenge at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, defeating their trans-Tasman opponents in the final in extra time.
Touch is a form of rugby in which tackling is replaced by touching. Teams usually comprise six players, and frequently include both men and women. The game began in Australia and spread to New Zealand in the 1970s. In 2013–14 it was the 20th-most popular recreational activity in New Zealand, with 4.9% of New Zealanders aged 16 or above playing. There was high participation by Māori and Pacific peoples. Touch New Zealand claimed in 2015 that more than 230,000 New Zealanders played the game, making it the largest team sport by participation in the country.
Although touch is largely a social game, there are serious competitions, including regular trans-Tasman tests and a world cup which began in 1988. New Zealand has consistently finished second to Australia in the men’s and women’s open competitions, but has won the mixed open competition twice.