Olympic Rugby
Dallaglio: Olympics will be huge for rugby
Jon McLeod
July 27, 2012
Lawrence Dallaglio with the Olympic torch, London, England, July 26, 2012
Dallaglio carried the Olympic torch outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge on Thursday © Getty Images

As London Mayor Boris Johnson said on Thursday night, "the Geiger counter of Olympic mania is going zoink off the scale" as the build up to the London 2012 reaches a climax. And while the world's gaze locks in on London and focuses on the next few weeks of Olympic competition, there will also be those starting to dream of Rio 2016.

In four years time rugby, in the form of sevens, will once again be given a spotlight on the Olympic stage and London 2012 is already giving fans, players and officials a sense of what a massive moment and opportunity it will be for the game.

World Cup winner, in both sevens and XVs, Lawrence Dallaglio believes rugby's return to the Olympic has the potential to introduce the game to many new audiences and develop it into a truly global sport.

"I am very excited. Sevens has always had the potential to be an Olympics sport," the former England international and 2003 World Cup winner told ESPN. "Rugby is an international game with a big 12 nations but sevens is a really global game. You get all sorts of nations playing sevens.

"The African nations are particularly strong as well as the normal rugby playing nations as you would expect. America are very strong and Latin America too, represented by the likes of South America and now Brazil.

"The Olympics has a global reach and it will inspire many, many countries and many, many people to play rugby. I was lucky enough to come through that development system along with the likes of Jonah Lomu, Matt Burke and Christian Cullen. Sevens has been the starting point for so many players and it is a tough game."

Rugby is a great spectator sport and a natural fit for the Olympic Games being played over two or three days and it is very, very fast and very exciting

The inclusion of rugby in the Olympics again has led to many nations investing in the development of the game in their country and their sevens' programmes, with Russia and United States among those investing heavily and making big strides.

And while both sevens and XVs will inevitably gain from the increased interest and competitiveness in smaller rugby playing nations, Dallaglio is also confident that the Olympics will benefit greatly from rugby's presence at the Games. He insists the pace and skill of the game will make an exciting spectacle for fans.

"It is a good fit for everyone. It is good for the games, it is good for the Olympic movement and it is also good for rugby as well," he said.

"Rugby is a great spectator sport and a natural fit for the Olympic Games being played over two or three days and it is very, very fast and very exciting. We have seen the success of Hong Kong and the World Sevens Series and it will be brilliant in the Olympics and Rio as well."

Dallaglio was part of the England team that won the inaugral sevens World Cup in 1993 before going on to win 85 caps for England in the full format of the game. And while he is enthused by the way sevens is broadening rugby's horizons around the world, he is also encouraged by the progress made by England's XVs side under Stuart Lancaster.

The former Wasps flanker and No.8 believes England will have gained a huge amount from their summer tour of South Africa, despite the disappointment of losing the series 2-0. Dallaglio was particularly impressed with the efforts of captain Chris Robshaw and fellow flanker Tom Johnson but pinpointed a step up in physicality as a prerequisite for challenging and beating the southern hemisphere sides this autumn.

England's Manu Tuilagi takes some stopping, South Africa v England, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, June 23, 2012
South Africa 'outmuscled' England this summer according to Dallaglio © Getty Images

"Ultimately the tour was disappointing because they lost the series but I think they would have learnt an awful lot," he said. "They put up a decent effort in all three, or certainly two out of three.

"They probably left having learnt an enormous amount about themselves as players and as on the coaching side. I think they will have learnt that actually they are good enough to compete at this level. They will have learnt that they have to improve physically if they are going to compete with the likes of South Africa because they were somewhat outmuscled in parts of that test series.

"But if they can make those adjustments and improvements as a squad then I firmly believe that they have the ability to beat the likes of South Africa and Australia, and possibly even New Zealand in the not too distant future. And they get another crack at them in the autumn."

Lewis Moody and Lawrence Dallaglio carried the Olympic Flame along Fulham Road on behalf of Samsung -a presenting partner of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

Samsung is inviting everyone to participate in the spirit of the Olympic Games with the Samsung Hope Relay app. To take part, download the app at www.samsung.com/hoperelay and run just one mile to raise money for charity.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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