Will Tevaughn Campbell trade CFL for rugby sevens?

Since his days at the Regina Rams from 2011 to 2014, defensive back Tevaughn Campbell has had a torrid and unsettled time in the CFL. Drafted in 2015 by the Calgary Stampeders, he only played in five games before being traded in February 2016 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Last August, he was traded again, this time to the Montreal Alouettes. And now, he has been released again, and is waiting to see who will come calling.

It has left the 24 year old from Scarborough, Ontario, with no doubt as to the cutthroat business of trying to forge a career in the CFL, particularly as a native-born defensive end. He told CNN: “”I wouldn’t say it’s politics, but not a lot of Canadians get a starting position in the CFL, especially at my position. There’s not really any starting Canadian corners in the CFL and that’s always where I’ve set my game to.”

However, Campbell has the opportunity to turn the tables on the CFL administrators with a little trade of his own. During the off season, he has been representing his country in the rugby sevens, and despite only a rudimentary understanding of the rules, he has made quite an impact.

What is rugby sevens?

Rugby sevens is essentially a seven-a-side, condensed version of conventional 15-a-side rugby union. In some respects, it can be compared with 5-a-side soccer, as the action is fast and furious, and games consist of just seven-minute halves. The speed and action make it popular with amateur players, spectators and even sports gamblers from all over the world, and it has garnered more of an international following than “full” rugby union.

A sevens match lasts for just 14 minutes (plus a two minute break between halves) and is played on the same size field as normal rugby. Due to the smaller teams, scores are usually similar to rugby union – despite the latter taking 80 minutes.

The high scoring and the ability to play an entire series of games over a weekend are what make rugby sevens so accessible and popular – games are typically played in a relaxed, almost festival-like atmosphere. A far cry from the seriousness of the CFL.

Campbell the speed machine

Transitions from rugby to football are not unusual – high profile converts include Scottish rugby legend Alex Hastings who went on to play in the World League for the Scottish Claymores and England Sevens player Alex Gray who recently signed for the Falcons in the NFL. The other way around is less common, but Campbell had something that is desperately important in rugby – he can run like the wind. In 2015, he broke the record for the 40 metre dash in the CFL combine, flying in at 4.355 seconds.

Being fast is one thing, but it doesn’t guarantee success. He had a lot to learn in a short time, acknowledging that things progressed so quickly, he found himself out in the middle with only a vague idea what he was doing. He said: “In some games I’d literally stand on the field and ask the ref, ‘What’s going on?’ Because I had no idea.”

Campbell is a fast learner, however, and ultimately played 25 games for his country, scoring eight times, to the adulation of the crowds. That’s not bad for a man who weeks earlier had not even learned the rules.

So will he make a permanent transition to rugby sevens? For now, he says his professional future lies in the CFL, as he waits for the phone to ring and an offer to land on the table. But don’t be surprised to see him out on the rugby field again in the near future.

 

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