POSTED: August 30th 2008

Rugby relies on sevens

Dallaglio is all in favour /
Dallaglio is all in favour /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

DUBLIN: Rugby union intends to top off its international expansion by securing a return to the Olympics in time for the 2016 Games, wherever they may be staged.

The International Rugby Board has launched a slick, intensive campaign to support its bid for reinstatement 84 years after the sport last featured in the Games, in Paris in 1924. Reigning gold medallists thus remain the United States who beat France 17-3 in the final in the historic old Stade Colombes.

Appropriately, the campaign is being led by a Frenchman, Bernard Lapasset. He is president of the IRB and used his time busily in Beijing recently in support of his sport and its attempt to gain re-entry with the sevens version of rugby union.

Lapasset suggested that the sevens tournament could be concluded within the first three days of an Olympics and thus provide an activity within the main stadium which is usually empty while the medal-winning focus shifts out to water and indoor venues.

Lapasset did not believe it was a weakness that rugby saw its likeliest route back into the Games via a scaled-down version of the 15-a-side game provide with worldwide visibility through the Rugby World Cup, the northern hemisphere's Six Nations Championship (competed between England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales) and the southern hemisphere's Tri-Nations (Argentina, Australia and New Zealand).

He said: "Sevens is a well-established rugby format in its own right with its own international events. It provides other countries with greater possibilities of success than the ones who usually dominate our World Cup and it would be almost impossible, in any case, to stage a meaningful 15-a-side tournament within the Olympic schedule because that lasts only two weeks.

"Rugby has come a long way in the 12 years of the professional era and the Olympic campaign is a test of our ambition to grow the game worldwide. Success would mean a new pinnacle for sevens and would deliver fantastic benefits for the game at large."

Lapasset said all the game's best-known international names, such as Jonah Lomu, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jonny Wilkinson, were all backing the sport's candidacy.

Rugby has one very particular historic link with the Olympics: the first international in France was referred by none other than Baron Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Games.

Keywords · Rugby · union · sevens · lapasset · IRB

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