It seems like the whole rugby world is obsessed with the Olympics right now. As they should be. The upcoming conclusion of the London Olympics means that our sport’s inclusion in the biggest collective sporting event in the world is just four years away. It’s a huge moment for our sport and something that a lot of people have put a load of effort into achieving. But are some getting too carried away?
Players around the world have repeatedly made statements over the last few weeks suggesting they want to play in the games, even at the expense of their club teams. Coaches have voiced support as well. Even the IRB has suggested that the southern hemisphere shift around its season to allow big name players to appear in the tournament. But does the Olympics “need stars” at the Olympics as IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset recently stated?
The answer naturally yes, but countries should be cautious about what it means to be a “star” in Sevens. Over the last few years the number of players that specialize in Sevens has been steadily increasing and national federations have pumped money and resources into developing Sevens programs. They should continue to develop these program. Why would countries put all of those resources into their full-time Sevens programs only to change at the last minute to put in a more famous 15’s player? These star players may be incredibly talent, but they often don’t have Sevens experience or conditioning. Also, an assembled team of stars may not have the cohesiveness that other teams that have been together for years might have.
Getting excited about rugby in the Olympics is the right thing to do, but pundits, fans, and everyone involved should take a step back and realize that the best way for rugby to succeed at the Olympics is to put out the best quality product. That will only come through players that have specialized conditioning and skills for the Sevens game. It will only come from teams that have been playing together for awhile.
All you have to do is look at the J.P. Morgan Premiership 7’s and tcompare it the IRB Sevens Series to see what happens when you just throw together players to play in a Sevens tournament. There is no question that the Prem 7’s is extremely entertaining and something to look forward to every summer. However, as was evidence this year, many of the players struggled with the conditioning Sevens requires (and they didn’t even participate in a full tournament spread over two days). Some players weren’t familiar with the patterns of Sevens and didn’t know what to do at certain times. Now, compare this to the top teams on the IRB Sevens Series and you can see how much better a product Sevens is when it is done by specialists. These teams are efficient in their passing, they know how to attack and defend, and overall put out a great product.
Additionally, think about the players that have specialized in Sevens over the last few years. Would it be fair to them if what they had worked hard for over the last several years was taken away because a “brand name” player wanted to play in the Olympics? Of course not, and it would frankly not gel with the spirit of rugby or the Olympics. These players chose Sevens because they love the sport and want to be an Olympian. Here in America that is a big draw. Since the announcement that rugby would be an Olympic sport, more players have taken up the game, more television time has been devoted to rugby, and the sport as enjoyed a much higher profile. To suddenly change players at the last moment would shatter this effort.
What national unions and the IRB should be doing instead of talking about switching seasons around and letting 15’s players have break to compete is building up their own Sevens programs to ensure that they can get on the podium. The competition is going to be incredibly fierce in four years and any team that doesn’t prepare years in advance is going to fall flat on their face. There is not doubt that Sevens is going to be exciting, but it would be wise to approach that moment in the best possible way.
What do you think? Should “stars” be encouraged to play in the Olympics or should teams develop their current programs?
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.