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Rugby's Olympic dream gets support

Published: 9:57AM Thursday August 13, 2009 Source: ONE Sport

  • Gordon Tietjens (Source: Photosport)
    Gordon Tietjens - Source: Photosport

New Zealand rugby Sevens heroes and current All Blacks have echoed the call for the International Olympic Committee to re-admit rugby to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1924.

The IOC Executive Board meets in Berlin on Friday to consider and recommend two new sports for inclusion from 2016.

The Executive Board's recommendation on two new sports will then go forward for the IOC members' consideration at their meeting in Copenhagen in October.

Gordon Tietjens, the unrivalled leader in international Sevens coaching, said it would be an enormous honour and privilege to see rugby sevens added to the Olympic programme.

Tietjens coached the New Zealand Sevens to consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medals in 1998 (Kuala Lumpur), 2002 (Manchester) and 2006 (Melbourne) and to Rugby World Cup Sevens championship in 2001. His teams have also won eight of the 10 IRB World Sevens Series titles.

"To have rugby contested at the Olympic level would be the ultimate for rugby athletes around the world, and would also bring a whole new dimension to Olympic fans who would experience the excitement, colour and passion of rugby sevens featuring the best players in the world," he said.

"I hope the IOC recognises our athletes and the power and excitement of the Sevens game when they consider rugby's application."

Current New Zealand Sevens captain DJ Forbes said one of the huge attractions of the Sevens game has been the internationalism and diversity of the teams taking part.

"I have had the privilege of playing for and captaining my country at the Sevens level and every year we face the challenge of new teams stepping up and winning tournaments. All of the historically strong Sevens nations like ourselves, Fiji, England and Samoa, have been toppled in the past years by new teams coming through such as Kenya, Portugal and, in particular, the current World Champions Wales."

All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina, who captained the All Blacks in three Test matches in June, said he could think of few honours in rugby greater than being able to represent your country at the Olympic Games.

Muliaina, who won gold with the New Zealand Sevens team at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, said while rugby had established a strong international programme with the Rugby World Cup at the top of the pyramid, every athlete in every sport aspired to be able to take part in the Olympic Games.

"I was very lucky to have taken part in our successful Rugby World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games campaigns in 2001 and 2002. For our future rugby players to be able to aim at the Olympic Games in 2016 and beyond would be an awesome opportunity."

That's a view shared by current All Blacks second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu, who credits the New Zealand Sevens setup for helping him develop his game.

"I loved playing Sevens - and it was huge for helping me with my fitness, form and confidence," said Nonu.

"I know nearly every rugby player would give it everything to get into a Games team, and I know fans from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands would love to see their teams playing at the Olympics."