by Ali Lee, and files from Rugby Canada and IRB
February 7, 2014, Victoria (ISN) – Several Canadian national rugby team players with University of Victoria ties have the chance to reach the Olympic dream that every amateur athlete aspires for. On February 6 the International Rugby Board officially announced the highly anticipated qualification process for Rugby Sevens for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games.
In the mix for team Canada include former Vikes Nathan Hirayama, Sean Duke, Phil Mack and John Moonlight, while members of the development squad, Patrick Kay and Nathan Yanagiya, may also be in contention for spots on the 2016 squad.
In both the men’s and women’s competitions, the top four nations from the 2014/15 Sevens World Series will automatically qualify, along with one from each of the six IRB regional competitions, one from world play-off and an automatic qualification has been given to the hosts, Brazil.
The announcement means that Canada’s Men’s and Women’s Sevens Teams will have three separate opportunities to qualify for Rio.
Canada’s Men’s and Women’s Sevens Teams have both enjoyed incredible successes recently, with a second place finish at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens (Women) and third place finish at the 2014 Las Vegas Sevens (Men) as each team’s highlight.
Rugby Canada’s Men’s Program Manager Gareth Rees believes this is an exciting time for Rugby Sevens, “Well the excitement for Rugby Sevens builds with the Olympic announcement,” said the former National Team captain, Rees.
“Obviously everyone wants to be in the Olympic Games, but the pathway to get to Rio is difficult for North America. So, some tough challenges lie ahead for Canada’s Men’s and Women’s Sevens Teams, but challenges we’re prepared for.”
Canada’s Men’s Team currently sits 11th on the HSBC Sevens World Series after four events this season, while Canada’s Women’s Team holds the fourth position on their respective IRB Women’s Sevens World Series after their first stop in Dubai.
Canada Women’s Sevens stalwart, Ashley Steacy agreed with Rees.
“We’ve been working towards the Olympics in Rio since the (2013) Rugby World Cup Sevens and it’s exciting for us to hear the process it’s going to take for us to get there,” said the Lethbridge, Alberta native.
“We’ve been really fortunate to have incredible support from Sport Canada, Own the Podium and Rugby Canada and the resources they’ve provided us have helped boost our game.”
Both of Canada’s Sevens sides will be in action in the coming weeks, as the men’s team opens the Wellington Sevens tonight against Scotland and the women will be in action the following two weekends in Atlanta, Georgia and Sao Paolo, Brazil.
[IRB Press Release]
OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION PROCESS FOR RUGBY SEVENS
The International Rugby Board has announced that the Brazil men’s and women’s teams will automatically qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Rugby Sevens events.
Confirmation follows ratification by the International Olympic Committee of the inaugural Rugby 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.
The decision to automatically qualify the host nation in both the 12-team men’s and women’s competitions 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 per cent 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 Rugby 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 Rugby 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.”
Rio 2016 Organising Committee President Carlos Nuzman said: “We are delighted that the IRB has taken this decision which will not only increase excitement for Rugby’s return to the Olympic Games in Rio but also help create further positive momentum for the sport of Rugby in Brazil.”
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.
In 2013 the IRB injected US$400,000 into Rugby in Brazil to enhance the Union’s development and high performance structures, while 9,000 children were introduced to the sport for the first time through the IRB’s Get Into Rugby programme. On February 21-22 Sao Paulo will host the third round of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series with Brazil currently ranked eighth.
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.
Lapasset 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 Rugby 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 Rugby Sevens to new audiences in Brazil and around the world.”