Fiji will win its first Olympic Games medal in Rio de Janeiro, says IRB chief executive Brett Gosper.
“Fiji will surprise the world but not us (IRB) if they win their country’s first-ever Olympic medal,” Gosper said when questioned what nations will surprise when rugby sevens will be included for the first time in the biggest global sporting event.
Gosper was fielding questions from rugby followers on Olympic Day on Tuesday and he believes the sport will be a big hit in Rio.
Gosper also clarified that the Rugby Sevens World Cup would not be disbanded and continue even though it has been included in the Olympics.
“No plans at all. Rugby World Cup Sevens is an important growth factor for the sport and the IOC agrees it sits well with the Olympics,” Gosper said.
The IRB head said the success of the debut of the sport in Rio would be the key to see rugby sevens’ inclusion in the Olympics long term.
“Rio 2016 gives rugby sevens a chance to showcase its unique appeal to a truly global audience,” he said.
“To be honest I can’t think of too many other events that sum up what the Olympics is about better than sevens.
“It is a combination of athleticism, power, speed and integrity.
“A successful sevens event in Rio is obviously a key driver to sustaining sevens as a long-term Olympic sport, so the main thing is for us, as a governing body, is to make sure a good show is put on and we’re confident we’ll help the organisers achieve that.”
He said the measure of success in Rio for the rugby sevens would be a Competitive event, full stadiums and the unique Brazilian atmosphere
Gosper said the Brazilian women’s team would be making an impact in the new event.
“As hosts, I’m confident Brazil’s women will make an impact, especially as they’ll be guaranteed wonderful support – certainly if the atmosphere at the Brazil leg of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series is anything to go by,” he said.
“Edna Santini was a real star of that tournament and is shaping up to be her country’s ‘poster girl’.”
Gosper said top level 15s players were commenting on social media that they wanted to be in the Olympics.
“You only have to read comments from top level fifteens players on social media that they are desperate to be Olympians, and we want them there if they make the grade, but they will have to prove they can make the transition,” he said.
“Today’s sevens players take fitness to a new level.”