I will be honest and admit it is not that often I get excited about sevens rugby. But – Olympic ‘7s’ – bring it on!
To showcase our amazing sport at the biggest sports festival in the world can only be a positive thing and what I love is that countries have qualified for the Olympic tournament who are rugby minnows when it comes to the 15 a side game. Kenya, Japan, USA and Spain are all involved in the Mens and in the Women’s – Colombia! Fantastic.
I know what some are saying – that 7’s is just not rugby and of course they are right but like T20 cricket it is an exciting way to introduce the sport to countries without a traditional infrastructure to coach 15’s. Things like the scrum and line out are hugely technical in rugby and so it is quicker and easier for countries to start with 7’s which does not use the set piece as part of the game.
Out and out favourites for the men’s title are Fiji. Packed with naturally gifted players who love the 7 a side game they have also acquired a bit more of an edge under the coaching of Englishman Ben Ryan who just might help Fiji win their very first Olympic medal. I can imagine the partying that will go on back in Fiji should that happen.
The GB men’s squad although lacking any superstars from the 15 a side game still oozes class. They are all real 7’s specialists who are conditioned and trained to think like a 7s player. Although I would have loved to see a Jonny May, George North, Stuart Hogg, or Elliot Daly in Rio I think when your body and mind is under extreme stress you revert to instinct. Players could for instance kick the ball away rather than keeping it in hand which can be totally the wrong thing to do in 7’s.
Our women’s team looks incredibly strong too with some really sensational players and the girls have a real chance of a medal so I will be on the sofa cheering them on at the weekend when their pool games kick off.
Other nations have added a sprinkling of 15’s stardust with superstar Sonny Bill Williams included in the New Zealand team and the USA adding in Saracens winger/full back Chris Wyles. The USA should be fun to watch with the pocket rocket that is Carlin Isles who runs some ridiculously quick time over 100m as well as another speedster Perry Baker who I understand is a class act.
I will also be keeping a keen eye on three competitors in the GB squads who are ex Hartpury College. The well known rugby college is a very close neighbour to our head office just outside Gloucester so a special reason to be cheering on Abbie Brown, Natasha Hunt and Dan Norton!
So, wear your colours with pride whoever you are supporting and let’s join the biggest party on earth and cheer on the real winner - rugby.