Great Britain defied the odds to win a silver medal in the Rio Olympic sevens tournament despite a haphazard build-up which saw the Home Unions thrown together late in the process.
The GB team lost to Fiji in the Olympic final, a team coached by England’s Ben Ryan, who cannot see his fellow countrymen repeating their Rio heroics and believes the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 must now become the focus.
Ryan is looking that far ahead because with England finishing fifth in the HSBC World Sevens Series they failed to automatically qualify for Tokyo and they will have to try and get to Japan via the European qualifier in France in July or the repechage. If they make it then Scotland(10th) and Wales(14th) would then become part of the Olympic equation as GB.
There is no guarantee England will win the European qualifier because France are finally getting their 7s act together. They reached two cup finals this season in Vancouver and Hong Kong and have unearthed a try-scoring wing in the form of 6ft 5in New Caledonian Remi Siega and ended in seventh place in the table.
Ryan said: “For me, if any of the home nations are going to win the World Series it will only be as a joined up Great Britain team. There are two reasons for that; the strength in depth of all the teams combined that’s an easy one and secondly, I know from my time as England coach, it will be much simpler to get the release of a good young player if you are in a GB kit and a budget from sponsors to allow you to give that club £25,000 for him. You then get a better quality of player and development into test rugby which is something that has currently run aground.
“If you get it right there would be so much positivity but no one is driving it at the moment. I wouldn’t be interested in coaching a GB team but I would be prepared to put the whole thing together using my knowledge of all the home unions. However, at the moment the situation means they are going to have to look at GB in terms of Paris in 2024 because with France as hosts we should have a GB team in those Games. It is too late to do that for Japan and they are stuck with the same programme they had in Rio and somebody should be pointing fingers about why this has happened.
“In my opinion, with everything else going on, people don’t care about sevens and if England bomb out in a tournament only a hard core will say that it’s not acceptable. The whole thing has ambled along.”
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