Faster, brighter: Olympics a ‘game changer’ for rugby sevens

Brisbane, Australia – For six days, fit, strong Olympians threw themselves at each other and over the try line in short, fast bursts.

Australian gold. A sideline marriage proposal from a venue employee (he said ‘yes’) to a player on the Brazilian team. As a distant Pacific island nation capped with a dozen Fijian men singing a celebratory hymn.

World Rugby President Bill Beaumont has described Olympic inclusion as “a game-changer for our sport”.

He said, “While the first appearance of Rugby Sevens at Rio 2016 had a profound impact, attracting an estimated 30 million new fans globally, the history-making story of Fiji’s first Olympic medal remains one of the Games’ most memorable moments. ” An email to the Associated Press. “The dynamic, action-packed nature of Rugby Sevens has captured the attention of fans around the world.”

A study by Nielsen Sports showed that women and the 18 to 24 age group were “the most ardent supporters of the sevens fit with the Olympics” and that two-thirds of all new rugby followers were from the saves or touch rugby formats. was introduced in the game.

“The future of rugby sevens is bright as the short format game continues to grow, lucrative and attract more and more global audiences, especially in emerging countries,” Beaumont said.

In 2016, Osia Kolinisou, the captain of the Fiji Rugby Sevens, placed his national flag at the opening ceremony and a week later gave his country the long-awaited first gold. In Tokyo, Black Ferns captain Sarah Hirini will be New Zealand’s women’s flag bearer, hoping to upgrade the silver she won five years ago to gold.

The traditional 15-a-side rugby format was last played at the Olympics in 1924. The sport began staging its own showpiece, the Rugby World Cup, every four years since 1987, but continued to be dominated by traditional powerhouse New Zealand, South Africa. Australia and New Zealand.

Depending on the nature of the 15s format, with set pieces such as scrums and lineouts, and heavy defense and stepped attacks, a stop-start can sometimes be performed in as little as 80 minutes.

The bite-sized intake version gives the sport a distinct appeal. Sevens, as the name implies, have seven players on each team and games are condensed into two halves of seven minutes each. Rugby has an emphasis on attacking – and a lot of it. The lack of set pieces makes size less relevant to skill and speed.

The Fijian men were the undisputed kings of their national game playing sevens, were hot favorites in Rio and duly defeated Britain in the final. South Africa beat surprise semifinalists Japan for bronze. He will also be a strong contender in Tokyo.

But Olympic inclusion also gives medal inspiration to some of the larger nations with less tradition in rugby. The US men’s and women’s teams have topped the world sevens rankings in recent seasons. Canada won the bronze medal at the women’s tournament in Rio – before Australia defeated New Zealand for the first Olympic gold awarded in the sport.

China and Russia will debut rugby sevens at the women’s tournament in Tokyo.

Chris Brown, coach of the US Women’s Sevens team, said standards and competition have increased significantly.

Apart from Australia and New Zealand in Rio, Brown said, the women’s tournament in 2016 was pretty flawed.

“If you look at the last three years, the duration of the game has gone through the roof in terms of how long you have to work to try and catch the ball,” Brown said. “I think there will be five teams that can legitimately win gold this time around – and I think we fall into that category.”

Australia women’s coach John Manetti agreed that the 2016 Olympics, when there were “probably three teams in the race”, were a catalyst for increased competition.

“The whole plan for women’s rugby has gone through the roof since Rio,” he said. “At the time we were one of the only centralized professional teams, and now there are eight or nine teams on the circuit that are fully professional.”

World Rugby said sevens continue to grow since Rio, attracting large audiences with the 2019 World Sevens Series – the last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic – a 64% year-on-year increase in video views up to 198 million. and over 749,800 participating tournaments.

Little Jerry Tuwai grew up in Fiji in a small house without electricity or running water. He is now among the national heroes of the team that won the gold medal in Rio and the player of the decade in the World Seven Series.

He said that Olympic gold was like “the greatest prize in sport”, but he did not fully appreciate the impact of his victory until his massive reception upon his return home.

“People from all walks of life were standing there, calling our names,” he told the Olympic Channel. “Then you realize you’ve done something really big.”


More AP Olympics: and—Sports


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