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Can't tell a scrum from a sin bin? 7 things to know about a new Olympic sport

Rugby has made its way back to the Olympics. Only this time, it's totally different. Here are seven things to know about Rugby Sevens.
/ Source: TODAY

It took nearly a century, but rugby has made its way back to the Olympics for the first time since 1924. Except this time, it's totally different.

Rugby Sevens, the faster, more streamlined cousin of traditional rugby, will be played in Rio between August 6 and 11, with 68 matches played every half hour. Here's some knowledge to drop that will impress your friends while you're watching.

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1. Sevens has fewer players.

Traditional rugby, sometimes called rugby union or just "union", is played with 15 players per side. But in Sevens there are (can you guess?) only 7. They still play on a full-size pitch, and each team member, who has only 6 others assisting him or her, needs to have plenty of stamina to cover the generously sized field.

USA Rugby's Jillion Potter staged an impressive Olympic comeback after battling both cancer and a serious neck injury.Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

2. The matches are short and usually played as multi-day tournaments.

In Sevens, halves are just seven minutes long with a two-minute halftime break, compared to the usual 40 minute halves with a 15-minute halftime. And it makes sense that when yellow cards are pulled, sevens players spend less time in the sin bin (penalty box): Two minutes, as opposed to 10 minutes in 15-a-side games.

3. In Sevens, the pace is faster and scores tend to be higher.

It's a matter of personal preference whether a fan prefers the action-packed vibe of Sevens or the elements of history and strategy that dominate Fifteens. But one thing is certain: Sevens is certainly a natural pick for the Olympics broadcast, with its scheduled commercial breaks and high number of matches played in a short time.

4. The scrums have fewer players and may move more quickly.

During Sevens scrummages, only three players from each side lock together and try to move the ball toward their teammates, as opposed to eight members in traditional rugby. In Sevens, scrums tend to be more about just restarting play, while in Fifteens, they can be lengthy, elaborate battles.

5. The aim of the game remains the same.

Players still must score points as tries (the ball gets held down after crossing the opponent's goal line) or penalties. But there are some key differences, for example, in Sevens, drop-kicks replace place-kicks for all conversion attempts, and must happen within 40 seconds (instead of one minute). And Sevens teams who score must kick off to the opposing team, while the opposite is true in Fifteens. The official Olympics site has a helpful overview of the current Sevens rules.

6. Neither the U.S. men's or women's teams is predicted to win gold.

But due to the unpredictable nature of the game, both still have a chance of earning medals. Players to watch include Carlin Isles on the men's side, who is often called one of the world's fastest players, and Jillion Potter, who not only won bronze at the 2013 Women's World Cup, but also staged an impressive Olympic comeback after battling both cancer and a serious neck injury.

U.S. player Carlin Isles is often called one of the world's fastest players.Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

7. Costumes are a thing.

Rugby Sevens tournaments have festive atmospheres, and fans tend to dress elaborately for games. (Head-to-toe silver body paint, Star Wars outfits and group ensembles like a banana bunch are just a few that have popped up in places like London and Hong Kong.) So don't just watch the action on the field during the Olympic broadcast—keep an eye on those wide-panning crowd shots.

Stay tuned for the first Rugby Sevens game that will be played at the Rio Olympics on Aug.6, 2016.

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