x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

'Olympics are pinnacle'

The likely inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Olympic Games could have far-reaching benefits for the region's national teams.

The Sevens World Cup is not likely to be held again.
The Sevens World Cup is not likely to be held again.

DUBAI // The likely inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Olympic Games could have far-reaching benefits for the region's national teams, according to Donal Kilalea, director of the Dubai Sevens tournament. "The Olympics are the pinnacle and will give the game a huge boost in the Middle East," said Kilalea, who also believed the UAE side will prosper.

"With Olympic classification comes growth and development. Training for local talent will improve - it's extremely good news," added Kilalea. Rugby sevens and golf, the other selected sport, are now due to go to a full International Olympic Committee vote in October, where the initial clearance is expected to be rubber-stamped by the 106-seat board. "It's exciting news, and we'll see in October what the final vote will be," said Kilalea.

"Rugby's shortlisted and it shows how the game has grown over the last 13 years - it has been phenomenal." While Olympic credentials will boost rugby sevens at a grass-roots level, the Sevens World Cup, its keynote professional event, will be scrapped if the IOC greenlights its inclusion after London's 2012 Games. That would mean the tournament held in Dubai earlier this year would go down in history as the last Sevens World Cup.

IRB President Bernard Lapasset has said he felt the sacrifice would be worthwhile. Kilalea, whose team organised Dubai's hosting of the World Cup competition in March, as well as the annual sevens calendar fixture, agrees. The Zimbabwean acknowledged the game's governing authority have vital decisions ahead. "It's been confirmed the IRB 7's series will continue, but I don't know what the IRBs decision will be [about losing the World Cup]," he said.

emegson@thenational.ae