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Sevens Olympic dream clearer

Thu, 06 Feb 2014 10:51
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Four nations will qualify from the 2014/15 Sevens World Series
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The International Rugby Board (IRB) confirmed on Thursday how Olympic qualification for 2016 in Brazil will work.

This follows ratification by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the inaugural Sevens qualification process that will feature a blend of the existing men's and women's Series structures, regional competitions and a world play-off, ensuring universal representation and the participation of the best teams and players.

Under the qualification structure for the men's competition, four nations will qualify from the 2014/15 Sevens World Series, one nation from each of the six IRB regional competitions, one from the world play-off and automatic qualification for Brazil.

The women will follow a similar format with four teams confirmed via the IRB Women's Sevens World Series, six from the regional competitions, the world play-off winner and automatic qualification for Brazil.

South Africa is currently leading the men’s World Series standings by a slender margin over rivals New Zealand. However, qualification for the much anticipated 2016 Rio Olympics will no doubt intensify closer to the global sporting event, to be held just over two years from now.

The Springbok Sevens will thus be aiming to clinch a top four finish on the 2014/15 World Series standings, which should guarantee them Olympic qualification.

The Springbok Women Sevens, meanwhile, finished the 2012/2013 World Series in eighth position, however, they remain outside of the core group featuring on the 2013/2014 circuit.

The women, however, will be looking to secure a place in the core group in the 2014/2015 season following SARU's decision to award contracts to 15 players in the elite Sevens Women's squad.

The IRB's announcement that the host nation's men's and women's teams will automatically qualify underscores the growing strength of rugby in Brazil and the IRB's commitment to further drive growth of the sport across a nation where rugby participation has grown by more than 25% since 2011.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The decision to include Brazil is good for rugby, good for Brazil and good for the Games. Rugby in Brazil is experiencing rapid growth and inclusion will generate further impetus and excitement, while giving the Brazilian rugby family and sports fans across the nation something really special to look forward to at their home Olympic Games.

"We are excited and honoured for Sevens to be making its Olympic Games debut in Rio and believe that the Games will be great for rugby and rugby will be great for the Games. We are working in partnership with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and the IOC to deliver a Sevens event that delivers outstanding competition, showcases our most skilful players, delivers a very special vibrant atmosphere and engages new and young audiences around the world."

According to Lapasset The IRB will continue to collaborate with the Brazil Rugby Union and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee to further the profile and reach of the game in Brazil in the countdown to the Games.

He added: "We are delighted to be announcing a truly global qualification structure that presents the opportunity for all our Member Unions to participate, ensures at least one team from each IRB region qualifies and delivers the best teams and players to ensure Sevens contributes significantly to the success of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

"This structure comes with the full support of our national Member Unions, who are excited at the prospect of competing on the world's greatest sporting stage and showcasing Sevens to new audiences in Brazil and around the world."

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