Rugby in sevens heaven as Olympics gives them the nod
SYDNEY: The world’s top rugby playing nations expect their best players to make themselves available for the 2016 Olympics if sevens is included in the programme.
The sport’s biggest names have traditionally focused their attention on the 15-a-side game but officials believe the lure of the Olympics could change that.
Rugby and golf have been shortlisted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion on the 2016 programme but the final decision will not be made until the IOC session at Copenhagen in October.
“The Olympics is the largest sporting stage in the world,” Australian Rugby Union Chief Exec- utive John O’Neill said. “Our players have already indicated they would treasure the opportunity to contend for a gold medal.”
New Zealand have been the dominant force in international sevens for the past decade, not even having to rely on their All Blacks, but chief executive Steve Tew said the Olympics could trigger a re-think to their whole approach.
“A lot of guys will absolutely cherish the opportunity to play at an Olympic event,” Tew said. “The energy and effort that will go into our competitors’ preparation for their programme is likely to increase considerably.
“We’re already finding it a bit harder than we used to, so we’ll have to take some stock in terms of our own preparation.”
The IRB have asked to run a competition for 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams and promised to scrap their World Cup, held every four years, to make the Olympics the highlight of their calendar.
“The Olympics would be the pinnacle of the sport for all our athletes and the rugby family, providing the opportunity for the best players in the world to showcase their talent on the greatest sporting stage,” IRB President Bernard Lapasset said.
Rugby failed in its attempt to be added to the programme for the 2012 London Olympics but England rugby boss Rob Andrew urged the IOC to include them this time.
“We realise that this is just the first step and the final decision rests with the IOC Committee,” Andrew said. “We hope they will see that rugby would be good for the Olympics and the Olympics would be good for rugby.”
If rugby was included for 2016, England’s players would have to join forces with Wales and Scotland in a Great Britain side.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were opposed to competing for Britain in soccer at the 2012 Olympics but Lee Beach, captain of the Wales side that won this year’s Sevens World Cup in Dubai, said there would no such problems with rugby.
“I have represented Wales in sevens at the Commonwealth Games and now the Rugby World Cup but to represent Great Britain at the Olympics would be the stuff of dreams,” Beach said.
“Playing for the British and Irish Lions is the top of the ladder for the 15-a-side game and the Olympics would be the pinnacle of the sevens game.” – Reuters