Rugby in sev­ens heaven as Olympics gives them the nod

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

Rob An­drew

Steve Tew

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