(ATR) Bernard Lapasset tells Around the Rings
the International Rugby Board is doing everything possible to develop the sport in Brazil ahead of rugby sevens debut at Rio 2016 – but admits the host nation’s men’s team may struggle.
Bernard Lapasset. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
“We want to make sure Brazil’s men and women are competitive at Rio 2016,” the IRB president told ATR
at a presentation of the federation’s Rio 2016 plans in London Olympic Park’s Prestige Pavilion.
“They have good quality women players,” he said, adding that the IRB was pumping investment into the men’s and women’s games at all levels including schools “to create more opportunities to detect some new players...and they are progressing very well.”
Developing the men’s game to a level that Brazil can compete with the traditional powerhouses of world rugby – including Australia, England, France and South Africa – was a “more complicated” challenge, he conceded, due to the scale of what needed to be achieved in just four years.
The IRB delivered notice of its intentions to promote the shorter format of the sport in Brazil when it signed an agreement with Brazil Rugby Union in May to launch the first women’s sevens circuit in South America in Brazil. Brazil’s women have been South American champion eight times in a row.
The “Super Sevens” got underway in San Jose at the end of June. It followed a successful CONSUR Sevens tournament in Rio earlier this year. Next February, that event will again take place in Rio - a regional qualifying tournament for the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
In his speech to a room of rugby legends, a handful of IOC members and a Rio 2016 delegation headed by president Carlos Nuzman, Lapasset praised organizers of London 2012, where the IRB has taken part in an observer program. Along with golf, they are the new sports on the roster of the Rio 2016 Games.
“It is fantastic to be here to experience the impact of the Olympic Games and it gives us a taste of what to expect in four years time when sevens debuts,” he said.
“There is no doubt that the IOC decision [to select rugby in 2009] was a major boost to the global profile of rugby. Our federations are telling us the effect of Olympic inclusion has been massive.”
He said rugby’s development was experiencing strong growth in countries such as Brazil, China and Russia.
“We are excited and completely committed to delivering a world-class event and engaging the Olympic Family and to ensure rugby sevens make a memorable debut.”
SportAccord president Hein Verbruggen told ATR
that rugby would be a welcome addition to the Olympics. “I think it is certainly added value for the Olympics. It is a good sport, very popular and I’m looking forward to it.”
Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup-winning rugby coach, now head of elite performance at the British Olympic Association, was seen congratulating Lapasset on the IRB’s successful bid to make the 2016 Games. “Rugby will be great for the Olympics,” he said.
Speculation continues to swirl around about the venue for rugby sevens at the next Olympics.
Brazil climbs the ladder against England during the recent USA Sevens Rugby tournament. (Getty Images)
Lapasset said a decision between a renovation of Vasco da Gama’s football stadium or hosting rugby at the Olympic Stadium would be made at the end of October.
Kit McConnell, the IRB’s head of the Rugby World Cup, has been leading rugby’s observer program in London. Around eight rugby officials are in the city to learn lessons from LOCOG’s staging of the Games.
“We want to be as educated as we can and a strong partner for the IOC,” he told ATR
McConnell said he and his IRB colleagues had attended around a dozen sessions as part of the London 2012 observer program, saying that the federation was building on its experience of staging the sport at various multisport events such as the Commonwealth Games.
Commenting on the “sheer scale of the Olympic Games”, he said the IRB would be aiming to pick up tips on how rugby should integrate with other sports when it might have to share a venue.
“We would like to add to it, it’s part of the promise we have given all along… the festival atmosphere around rugby sevens.”
Among the IOC members present at the rugby event were Guy Drut of France, Great Britain’s Phil Craven and tennis federation chief Francesco Ricci Bitti.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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