2016 Olympic Games
IRB wants star names at Olympics
ESPN Staff
June 12, 2014
Children enjoy the beach rugby, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 10, 2013
Children enjoy beach rugby in Rio as part of the campaign to win over local hearts and minds © Getty Images

Rugby's big-name attractions must feature at the 2016 Rio Olympics if the sport is to maximise its opportunity on the world stage, according to IRB chief Brett Gosper.

The board under Gosper is encouraging international unions to work through red-tape issues and ensure stars who want to play are allowed to do so. He said while the value of out-and-out Sevens players must be respected, rugby's chances of becoming a permanent Olympic sport may rely on an injection of star power.

Let Sevens be Sevens

  • Gosper's comments show that rugby faces a choice when it returns to the Olympics in Rio.

    On the face of it, with Sevens becoming a sport within a sport involving increasing numbers of specialist players, it should be a showcase for them to show their skills. But Gosper's comments show that the IRB sees the Olympics not only as opportunity to grow the game globally, but also to cash in on the sport's big names.

    The pressure on leading players is unrelenting and the summer months are vital to them to rest their battered bodies and minds. Sending them to the heat of Rio to play Sevens is hardly the way to do that, and is also insulting to those who have made their mark as Sevens specialists.

    There is so much going on at an Olympics Games that generally only rugby-playing countries will actually follow the rugby (their TV scheduling will see to that). The opportunity here is for the Sevens stars to gain a bigger profile in their own countries, and that is what the IRB should be concentrating on.

"In 2017, straight after Rio, they'll decide if rugby continues to be a core sport at the Olympics," Gosper, son of former International Olympic Committee vice-president Kevan said. "We will be in Japan [2020] as well but that may be it.

"We've got to work very hard to ensure we'll be successful at Rio ... because a lot of money comes into rugby because of the Olympics. It really is a differentiator. A powerful draw for youth, spectators and players to be part of an Olympic adventure.

"The profile of the players in XVs is obviously something which has a lot of impact. We think it's important and the Olympics would like us to have them there.

"We would hope the unions would make it easy for those top players who want to be part of the Olympics. It's good for their country, good for the sport and good for the Olympics."

Gosper said he'd personally love to see players such as Wallabies fullback Israel Folau and England powerhouse Manu Tuilagi feature at the Games.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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