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05 Aug 2016
China, Japan benefit from rugby’s Olympic inclusion
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5, 2016: Rio enjoys a carnival, so the rugby sevens competition should be a perfect fit for the Olympic Games. At a press conference on Friday, World Rugby officials stressed the carnival atmosphere surrounding the abbreviated form of the game, which features seven players per team as opposed to 15 in traditional rugby union.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said he was “honoured and excited to be here in Rio, back on sport’s biggest stage”, as rugby sevens makes it Olympic debut 92 years after 15-a-side rugby was played in 1924, when the United States won the gold medal.
“It is time for the teams to inspire the next generation to shine,” he added.Beaumont, a former England 15s captain, said the IOC’s decision seven years ago to include rugby sevens in Rio 2016 had transformed the game globally, with the number of players at 7.73 million and women’s rugby participation rising from 10 per cent to 30 per cent of that total.
“More than 1 million people have tried, played and stayed in the sport, and in countries such as China it is now in the schools programme. The IOC decision was a game-changer, and I have no doubt the rugby sevens tournament will be spectacular for the players and fans alike. The unique carnival atmosphere of sevens will be the highlight.”
There will be 12 teams in the men’s and women’s events, with Asia represented by Japan in both competitions. Beaumont feels this can promote the interest and excitement ahead of the next Rugby World Cup 15-a-side tournament in Japan in 2019, and for the sevens in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“It can be extremely positive,” he added. “It is a fantastic opportunity to develop rugby outside the traditional heartlands. You have only got to see the interest in Japan and the huge growth on the back of their success. We want to see sustainable growth so that we can be back here in Brazil in 10 years’ time and say this is great – the Rio Olympics was the catalyst for this.”
Sevens rugby demands speed, strength, stamina and skill as the action moves from end to end in two, seven-minute halves, and World Rugby officials view Rio 2016 as one of the most important steps in the history of the game.
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