Gatland hails sevens inclusion

LONDON: Wales coach Warren Gatland has hailed the inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Olympics as "a great leap forward" for the game.

Gatland was giving his reaction after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday rubber-stamped the inclusion of rugby sevens and golf at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Rugby sevens received 81 votes for and eight against with one abstention in the IOC vote in Copenhagen.

Wales are the current sevens world champions and they would expect to contribute significantly towards a Great Britain team bound for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

And Gatland, head coach of the senior Wales team, believes the IOC announcement gives sevens the ultimate sporting stage on which to project itself.

"Rugby will remember this day as the moment the development of the sport took a great leap forward on the world stage," he said.

"Rugby has a proud tradition and many important competitions are contested around the globe in an already-thriving sporting calendar.

"But the Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event on the planet and will represent another level for the sevens game.

"A new breed of supporters and future players will be able to sample the delights of rugby union.

"And the development of the game will be boosted in the American, African, Asian and Oceanic markets, as well as the more traditional heartlands, ensuring that our sport continues to grow from strength to strength."

His enthusiasm was echoed by Rugby Football Union's Elite Rugby Director, Rob Andrew.

"Sevens will be an invaluable addition to the Olympic Games. As proved in the Commonwealth Games, the IRB Sevens World Series and through its own Rugby World Cup, it is a thrilling spectacle that captivates the fans," he said.

"The thought of joining with the other home unions to make a Team GB is very exciting and on behalf of the RFU and the Elite Rugby department I am delighted that sevens rugby for men and women has been included."

England Sevens captain and IRB World Sevens Player of the Year Ollie Phillips said: "It's fabulous news and I was doing cartwheels round my flat. As someone who has been involved in Sevens for a number of years and seen how the World Sevens Series has grown, for it now to be an Olympic sport is amazing.

"It's the pinnacle of sport, to be an Olympian - I just hope that my legs will be up to it in 2016 when I'm 32!"

Rugby sevens will see 12 teams each in men's and women's competition, with the sport's governing body the IRB having pledged to end its showpiece World Cup Sevens tournament.

"For Sevens rugby to be part of the 2016 Olympics is fantastic," said England Women's Sevens player Maggie Alphonsi.

"All the world's very best athletes want to compete in the Olympics, and for rugby players that isn't any different. Now we have our chance."