International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset has described the beginning of qualification for Rugby Sevens’ debut at the Olympic Games as an historic moment for the sport.
Rugby will return to the Olympic stage after a break of 92 years when 12 teams will compete in each of the men’s and women’s Rugby Sevens events at Rio 2016. As excitement builds within the global Rugby family, the road to Rio will begin this weekend for the world’s top male teams with the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia.
The Gold Coast Sevens is the first of nine events that comprise the HSBC Sevens World Series with the top four teams in the standings securing a place at Rio 2016. A further six places will be determined by regional qualifiers next year with a further place available via a play-off event to close the process. Brazil automatically qualify as hosts.
Lapasset said: “The beginning of the global qualification process represents an historic milestone for the Rugby family as we look forward to Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016.”
“The world’s top Sevens players are honoured and excited to have the opportunity to make history and become the first men and women in 92 years to represent Rugby at an Olympic Games.”
“Such excitement will be very evident in the Gold Coast this weekend as the road to Rio kicks off in earnest with the first of round of what promises to be a very competitive and compelling series.”
The women’s qualification process begins in Dubai in December with the first of six IRB Women’s Sevens World Series events that will deliver four teams. As with the men’s process, a further six places will be determined by regional qualifiers, another via the play-off and Brazil’s women automatically qualify.
Lapasset added: “This milestone caps another stellar year for Sevens, with our Youth Olympic Games debut, a 171,000 world-record attendance over two days at an electric Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games event and yet more record attendance and broadcast figures for the HSBC Sevens World Series.”
Meanwhile, preparations for Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games debut are on track. The IRB, in partnership with the Brazilian Rugby Federation, continues to drive sustainable participation growth in Brazil. In the last year more than 9,000 boys and girls have been introduced to the sport via a variety of development initiatives.
To sustain the growth, teachers, coaches and referees are being trained in Brazil and the IRB invested more than US$400,000 in both development support and high performance initiatives over the last year to grow participation while increasing competitiveness of the men’s and women’s senior national teams.”
Lapasset added: “We conducted a recent site visit of the Deodoro Olympic Park to review progress on our venue and are highly encouraged with preparation.”
“We do not get a second chance to make a first impression and working in partnership with Rio 2016 and the IOC we are focused on ensuring a memorable and successful Olympic debut for Rugby Sevens, which is great for the Games, Brazil and Rugby.”
“We are looking forward to welcoming Olympic sports fans to a vibrant and exciting arena where they can experience the dynamic athleticism of our Rugby Sevens Olympians in a unique festival atmosphere.”