x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

World Cup could be traded for Olympic spot

The UAE may have played host to the final Rugby World Cup Sevens after the game's ruling body revealed plans to scrap the event if the sport is accepted into the Olympics.

DUBAI // The UAE may have played host to the final Rugby World Cup Sevens after the game's ruling body revealed plans to scrap the event if the sport is accepted into the Olympics. The International Rugby Board are willing to sacrifice the tournament and make a potential Olympic Sevens competition the pinnacle of the four-year cycle. They will make a pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) next month, as they bid for one of two places available to new sports at the 2016 Games.

The 24-nation tournament in March at Dubai formed the cornerstone of the IRB's Olympic bid. Crucially, a 16-team women's competition, which was played concurrently to the men's event - won by Wales - showcased the inclusiveness of the sport in front of a 35,000 strong crowd. In 2005, when rugby last failed in its attempt to be included, it was criticised for not doing enough to develop the women's game.

Mike Friday, who enjoyed much success at the Dubai Rugby Sevens as the coach of England's men's side, was a coaching consultant to their women's side in March. He said: "It was wonderful in 1998 to go to the Commonwealth Games as a player, and in Manchester 2002 when I was coaching. It just has to be an Olympic sport, because it crosses 56 nations, both in the men's game and the women's." As Cheryl Soon, the captain of the winning Australian women's team in Dubai, put it: "To win a medal at the Olympics is the absolute pinnacle. It's what we dream of."

The prominence of nations such as Fiji, Samoa and Argentina, who have little Olympic presence in other sports, is also a major selling point for the IRB. Friday added: "In a lot of sports, it is pretty much foregone who the top eight are normally, but the top sevens sides could come from anywhere, which is what the Olympics is all about." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae