The Olympic rugby sevens tournament includes 12 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams. Each event takes place over the course of three days.

Rugby sevens is contested with seven players on the field for each team. Another five players are on the bench for each team. There are two seven-minute halves separated by a two-minute halftime break. For the medal games, each half is 10 minutes long. The clock runs continuously, with injury time added at the end of each half (similar to soccer). Injury time is usually less than 30 seconds per half.

Pool Play

Three pools (A, B, and C) of four teams. Each team plays every other team in its pool once in a round robin format, with the first two games for each team taking place on the first day and the last game taking place on the second day. There is no overtime played in pool play, so matches can end in a draw.

Match Points: Teams earn three points for a win, two points for a draw, and one point for a loss. The top two teams from each pool advance to the quarterfinals, along with the two best-performing third-place teams, based on match points.


  1. Head-to-head (between the tied teams)
  2. Point differential
  3. Try differential
  4. Points for
  5. Tries for
  6. Higher seed

Knock-out Stage

The tournament uses a single-elimination bracket on the third and final day to progress from the quarterfinal round to the semifinal round to the medal games.


The Pool A winner faces the second-best third-place team. The second-place teams from pools B and C face each other. The Pool C winner faces the second-place team from Pool A. The Pool B winner faces the best third place team (see below).

*7 and 8 are reversed if one or both of them had already met their prospective opponent in pool play.


The two semifinal winners compete for gold, while the two semifinal losers compete for bronze.


  • Try (five points): Putting the ball on the ground with downward pressure in the in-goal area (similar to a touchdown in football)
  • Drop goal / penalty (three points): Drop-kicking the ball between two goal posts during open play or after the opposing team commits a penalty (similar to a field goal in football). These are rare in rugby sevens
  • Post-try conversion (two points): The same as a drop goal, but taken within 30 seconds after a try has been scored (similar to an extra point in football)

When a knock-out stage game ends with a tie score:

The game proceeds to sudden-death overtime after a two-minute break. Overtime is continuous until a winner has been determined (each overtime period is five minutes).


More information:

Official Tokyo site – Rugby

USA Rugby

World Rugby