Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Friday, October 09, 2009

Rugby joins the Olympics

By 81 votes to 8 it was confirmed today in Copenhagen that Rugby Sevens will be a part of the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and will also be at the 2020 Olympics as well. Golf also won a place in the games, though the vote for that sport was a little closer (around 63-27 if I recall correctly).

The plan is for 12-nation events for both men and women, but this could be enlarged if requested (there were some questions about why only 12 nations would be allowed to compete - the answer was that it was due to the need to keep player numbers down). England, Scotland and Wales will compete as a GB team (the example of the British Lions was give - so we may guess what the shirts will look like!). It was also confirmed that the Republic of Ireland would enter their own team (a slight outstanding question, being as Ireland have historically not been one of the most enthusiastic unions when it comes to sevens), and that the IRFU were "relaxed" about Ireland players choosing to play for GB or Irish Olympic teams.

This also means that the next Sevens World Cup (due in 2013) will be that last one, as the IRB also said that they would now work towards the Olympics being the pinnacle of Sevens rugby. Qualification for the 2016 games would presumably start after the 2013 tournament.

So... where does this leave things? How does this affect you?

First - one certainty. You all can now have an ambition to play at the Olympics. The fact that the games are seven years away means that most of the GB team in 2016 will now be playing junior rugby - and that even if you do not make the Games, the chances are very good that sometime this season you will be tackling (or being tackled by!) someone who will.

Next - a bit of speculation. We can expect to see the importance of Sevens rise over the next few years. As things stand it is now an end-of-season bit of fun, with many junior clubs shutting up shop at the end of April and not taking part in May's sevens season at all. That cannot continue. Maybe not this year, but within a couple of seasons or so, I think we can expect to see more sevens tournaments throughout the season, the probable formation of junior sevens squads at national level, and maybe even the addition of sevens to county and regional programmes - in order to identify the special talents that go with the sevens game.

And finally - one concern. There is a risk here that 15-a-side rugby could suffer. Funding tends to favour Olympic sports - even in the UK - and if you were a player good enough to play at international level, would you prefer to play 15s rugby in front of a few hundred people at a club ground somewhere in London, or sevens rugby in front of 60,000 (plus live TV coverage) in Rio? Will schools concentrate more on sevens (cheaper, easier to coach, fewer players needed)? This is not a problem that the men's game will face, because the professional 15s game is a big enough balance to the attraction of gold medals and Olympic Games... but is the women's 15s game big enough to compete with such a high profile "rival"?

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