Rugby at the Olympics?

With the IRB to put forward its proposal to get Rugby 7s into the 2016 Olympics, a golden opportunity has been missed by the IRB to revolutionise the way the Olympics is administered, watched, contested, sponsored and ignored (when it comes to race walking and synchronised swimming).

Rugby 7s is a fine sport deserving of greater recognition. Much like Twenty20 cricket it highlights an element of the game that is fun and exciting, but ultimately does little to promote the full version of the sport or to improve the overall skills of its competitors (though it certainly improves their fitness) or the concentration spans of its fans. So if the IRB's intention of getting Rugby 7s into the Olympic program is to promote the game globally they are going to be sadly disappointed. No kiddie in Zimbabwe watching Kenya defeat Samoa in the semi-finals of the Olympic Rugby 7s is going to grow up wanting to, or with a realistic chance of, lifting the Webb-Ellis Trophy after winning a Rugby World Cup, the pinnacle of the game.

So if an opportunity does truly exist to include a new sport in the Olympics then the obvious solution is to have the full 15-man (and woman) version at the heart of the IRB agenda. After all, would Soccer accept the Olympics only including beach soccer or indoor soccer (futsal) or table soccer (foosball) or Subbuteo? (Which begs the question, why can't Rugby 7s be called Roogby?).

Of course not, and neither should Rugby aficionados accept any lesser form of Rugby be at the forefront of global promotion of the sport.

Now the main objections to the full Rugby version being included in the Olympics are that it would take away from the prestige of the Rugby World Cup, and that the competition could not be fit into the two-weeks of the Olympics. The proponents of these objections are approaching the issues from entirely the wrong angles.

The major problems with International Rugby at the moment are a lack of international competition for minor countries and major countries sending lesser teams on their out-of-season trips. Shifting the World Cup to the years between Olympics will ensure top notch competition every two years, keep players in the game longer (more interest), and ensure the necessary competitive edge to drive up the standard of lesser Rugby playing nations while the top countries will need to keep their best players in peak condition by playing constant tough matches. Having Rugby World Cups in the same year as Soccer World Cups shouldn't be a problem because the followers of each game can't stand the other game and won't watch it, so there will be no impact on TV audience numbers or spectators.

Two weeks may not be enough time to run a full Olympic Rugby competition so obviously the Olympics must change to accommodate this. Already soccer and horse competitions start before the opening ceremony anyway, so why not Rugby? Indeed let the Olympics Rugby tournament run its full course over two months with just the semi-finals and final in the Olympics proper and you will guarantee massive worldwide interest. And to distinguish it from the World Cup make it a knock-out competition with 64 teams (32 matches) over 6 weeks, or similar to the FA Cup the eight major teams just join at the third round stage. It's unlikely any team would need to be involved for more than about three weeks, minimising the impact on clubs.

Of course the IRB are only focussed on manipulating their game to suck up to the IOC. If the IOC don't want the 15-man (or woman) game then the IRB should go it alone and run its own Rugby Olympiad along the lines detailed above.

Comments

I guess a major advantage of Sevens is the players can back up and play each day. With 15 man rugby they tend to have a week between matches...
Kenneth said…
yes, rugby at the Olympics that's what we all want, right? Doesn't make sense not having rugby
Anonymous said…
Join the online petition to get Rugby to the Olympics at www.olympic-rugby.org

And spread the word.

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