Take a tour through the history of the men's Sevens World Cup as we look back on each of the previous seven tournaments
Who has won each men’s Sevens World Cup?
The 2022 men’s Sevens World Cup is the eighth iteration of the tournament, with four different nations winning it previously. New Zealand lead the way with three titles, while much-loved Sevens magicians Fiji have lifted the trophy twice. Elsewhere, there has been a surprising triumph for England and an almost-unforeseeable victory for Wales.
Ahead of the upcoming chapter of the tournament in Cape Town, let’s look back at the previous men’s Sevens World Cups.
1993: England claim inaugural Sevens World Cup
By 1993, launching a Sevens World Cup was a no-brainer. The format offered burgeoning rugby nations a simplified version of the sport and the Hong Kong Sevens had been growing in participation and publicity since launching in 1976. What’s more, the success of the first two 15s World Cups in 1987 and 1991 had demonstrated in practice the appetite for global rugby competitions.
After a proposal from the Scottish Rugby Union, the International Rugby Football Board duly authorised the first Sevens World in 1993, to be held at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. Some 24 nations qualified for the tournament, with the traditional rugby powerhouses joined by relative newcomers like South Korea, the Netherlands and Latvia.
However, it was familiar names who emerged from the two group stages to reach the semi-finals, before England and Australia progressed from the last four to meet for the title. In a match featuring Lawrence Dallaglio, David Campese and Michael Lynagh, England built a 21-0 lead before holding off an Australian comeback to win 21-17.
England had lost to their antipodean foe earlier in the tournament and the squad had barely played together prior to the competition, but the first sevens World Cup final demonstrated the format’s beautiful unpredictability.
1997: Fiji edge out Boks in Hong Kong
With the 1993 tournament confirming the efficacy of the Sevens World Cup, the tournament went to its spiritual home for the second edition.
And, fittingly, it was the format’s most revered nation that lifted the Melrose Cup at Hong Kong Stadium. Fiji waltzed through their pool, scoring 101 points and conceding none, and then showed no mercy in dispatching plucky underdogs South Korea 56-0 in the quarter-finals. Pacific island rivals Western Samoa were cast aside 38-14 in the semis, and they met South Africa in the final after the Blitzboks toppled New Zealand.
In an epic of a final, Fiji’s daring enterprise and remarkable offloading earned them a 24-21 victory, while their captain Waisale Serevi won the first World Cup Player of the Tournament award of his illustrious career.
2001: New Zealand stroll to glory
During the 1990s, New Zealand’s Sevens World Cup story mirrored that of the 15s side – a supremely talented group that came unstuck when it mattered most. That changed in 2001, as they dominated the World Cup in Argentina.
In their five group games, they scored 175 points and conceded a mere 14. Samoa were hammered 45-7 in the quarters, before hosts Argentina were defeated 31-7 in the last four. Australia beat Fiji in the other semi to meet their trans-Tasman neighbours in the final but lost 31-12, as a certain Jonah Lomu helped himself to a hat-trick.
2005: Fiji make Sevens World Cup history
The World Cup returned to Hong Kong in 2005 and yielded a similar result to the 1997 tournament. Besides the 24-19 semi-final victory over England, Fiji were untroubled on their path to the final, where they met a New Zealand side who had squeezed past Australia 24-20 in the semis.
With Player of the Tournament Serevi providing usual genius and future 15s stars Sireli Bobo and Vilimoni Delasau in their ranks, Wayne Pivac’s Fiji proved too strong for New Zealand. Tries from Jone Daunivucu, Serevi and Semisi Naevo gave the Pacific islanders a 17-7 lead at the interval, before scores from Apolosi Satala and Bobo kept New Zealand at arm’s length in the second half.
The scintillating Fijian display earned them a 29-19 victory, meaning they became the first nation to win two Sevens World Cups.
2009: Wales triumph in tournament of the underdog
For all the drama and free-flowing rugby the first four tournaments provided, the cup knockout stages had been the preserve of the usual Sevens elite. The 2009 competition in Dubai therefore offered a welcome dose of surprises.
Leading the fairytale story was Kenya, who beat mighty Fiji 26-7 in the quarter-finals. As a traditional rugby minnow and one that had never finished higher than joint-19th at previous World Cups, the East Africans’ success epitomised what Sevens could offer to the less-heralded nations. Elsewhere in the quarters, Samoa and Argentina saw off big names, beating England and South Africa respectively.
It was Wales, though, who ultimately stole the show. Paul John’s side snuck into the last eight on points difference, an achievement in itself since the Welsh had never made the cup knockout stages before.
Yet, if a quarter-finals berth was unprecedented, what followed was utterly ridiculous. Rather than bowing out admirably against New Zealand as expected, a late Tom Isaacs try earned them a 15-14 victory over the top-seed. A similarly dramatic semi-final, which saw captain Lee Williams make a desperate defensive touch-down in the final play to preserve a 19-12 lead, saw Wales hold off Samoa.
Any surviving Welsh fingernails were chomped off during the final against Argentina, who had beaten Kenya in the other semi. In a back-and-forth affair, Aled Thomas’ superb try with two minutes to go snatched another 19-12 victory. From nowhere, Wales were champions.
2013: Order restored as New Zealand regain Sevens World Cup
Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium was the setting for the 2013 World Cup and it hosted a tournament with few upsets, as if the craziness of 2009 needed neutralising.
Champions Wales bowed out in the quarter-finals this time, while Argentina and Samoa could only make the plate knockout stages after their heroics four years earlier. Kenya, Dubai’s other great logic-resisters, did reach the semi-finals again, though this reflected their sustained progress on the Sevens circuit rather than an inexplicable surprise.
Their tournament ended at the hands of England in the last four, while New Zealand beat Fiji 17-0 in a clash of the established elite in the other semi. Playing on a pitch still soaked from an earlier thunderstorm, the All Blacks eased past England in the final to win their second World Cup, with Waisake Naholo among the scorers in the 33-0 victory.
2018: New Zealand defend title in San Francisco
The Sevens World Cup adopted a new format in 2018, with 16 teams qualifying for the cup knockout stages rather than the traditional eight. The increased jeopardy led to some outstanding matches, especially Scotland’s 31-26 victory over Kenya in the last 16, as John Dalziel’s men recovered from a 26-0 deficit to reach their first quarter-final.
USA, cheered on by a superb home crowd at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, also reached the last eight for the first time, and England needed extra-time to sneak into the semi-finals at the hosts’ expense. England then cruised past top-seeded South Africa to reach the final, where they faced New Zealand after the All Blacks once again got the better of Fiji, now Olympic Champions, in the semis.
And much like 2013, the showpiece game was a no-contest, as two early Sione Molia tries gave the defending champions a lead they would never relinquish. New Zealand ultimately won 33-12, becoming the first side to retain the title, and to win three men’s Sevens World Cups.
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