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100 days to go: Rugby sevens set for ‘coming of age’ at Paris Olympics

By Finn Morton
Rodrigo Isgro and Antoine Dupont will aim to compete in the Olympics with their respective sevens teams. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images and Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images

The dawn of an exciting new era for rugby sevens is rapidly approaching with the countdown to the Paris Olympics reaching an important milestone on Wednesday.

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There are only 100 days to go until the Opening Ceremony in Paris, but rugby sevens joins football in the unique position of starting the Games two days early on July 24.

Thousands of passionate supporters are expected to fill the stands at the world-famous Stade de France, with a full house expected at every session over six massive days.

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After three years of hard work, patience and resilience, the best women’s and men’s teams will put their Olympic dreams on the line in the pursuit of a historic gold medal.

New Zealand will look to defend their Tokyo gold against a talented women’s field which includes a red-hot Australia, and Fiji’s men’s side are looking to make it three Olympic golds in a row.

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin believes there has ‘never’ been a bigger year for the sport. Picture: World Rugby/Mike Lee.

The men’s sevens Olympic champions will receive the first gold medal at the Games. Antoine Dupont is hoping to lead France to that honour, but there are a number of other worthy candidates chasing the same slice of history.

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Nielsen research estimates that rugby sevens’ introduction to the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 [held in 2021] saw 30 million new supporters take an interest in the sport.

Sevens will be under the spotlight ahead of the Opening Ceremony and rugby is ready to make the most of that golden opportunity at what is set to be the biggest Olympics yet for the sport.

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin said it himself at the Hong Kong Sevens earlier in April: “(There has) never been a bigger year for sevens.

“We had a brilliant debut in Rio in 2016, obviously Abby (Gustaitis – who was sitting next to Gilpin) was part of what we did in Tokyo. It was devastating to be in the Tokyo Games a year later with no fans… we’re so excited about Paris. It’s going to be an amazing six days.

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“Paris will be our big platform, our kind of coming of age of rugby sevens in the Olympics. We’re in the Stade de France, we know it’s going to be full, it’s going to be buzzing for rugby.

“We’re in conversation with LA28, that’s why LA is such an important part of the sevens program for us. We’re in conversation with Brisbane 32, so we feel like we’re a proper Olympic citizen as a sport which is really important.

“That allows us to continue to drive funding into not just the elite end of the sport that we’re seeing here but more kids around the world have opportunities to play.

“It’s a really important opportunity for the sport as a whole.”

France showed at Rugby World Cup 2023 that they know how to put on a rugby part. 11 women’s and men’s teams can already look forward to taking part in another big week for the sport in Paris, with one more spot still up for grabs.

The final Olympics-bound side in both events will be determined at the Repechage in Monaco on June 21-23. The Paris Games’ pool announcement will be made following that event in two months’ time.

Stade Louis II in Monaco will host 12 teams from both events, including South Africa’s Blitzboks who headline an impressive men’s lineup that includes SVNS Series sides Canada, Great Britain and Spain.

“The Olympic Games are the biggest multi-sport event in the world and a stage like no other for rugby players to share with other incredible athletes from across the globe,” World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said in a statement.

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“The prize of being able to compete for your country for an Olympic medal is an incredibly precious one and I am sure we will see some intense and passionate world-class rugby in Monaco as teams compete for those highly coveted final qualification places to achieve their Olympic dreams.

“We know from Rugby World Cup 2023 what an amazing rugby show Paris can put on and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be no different with knowledgeable and passionate fans filling the stadium.

“It is a hugely exciting time for rugby sevens, with the launch of HSBC SVNS we are showing what our sport can offer not just on the pitch but through music, live experiences, food and of course, the incredible abilities of some of the fittest, strongest and most impressive athletes on the planet.

“The future is very bright for rugby sevens and I would like to wish all the best to those competing to join us at one of the biggest shows on earth at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.”

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1 Comment
J
Jmann 62 days ago

I think we are all just hoping that the Olympic 7s doesn’t suffer the same sad fate as the last RWC with the officials ruining the spectacle.

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Flankly 12 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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