Rugby Ready for Olympic spotlight
After a 92 year hiatus, the sport of rugby will return to the Olympic program for 2016 in the form of rugby sevens. Currently, Canada is home to the fifth-ranked women’s team in the world and the 11th ranked men’s team – the defending Pan American champions.
There is an estimated 100,000 registered rugby players in the country. Surely many of those were thrilled in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee voted 81-8 for its inclusion into the Summer Games for the first time since the 15-side version appeared in 1924.
In a speech at the Rugby Canada Annual General Meeting, Canadian Olympic Committee CEO and Secretary General Christopher Overholt declared the next several years will be Rugby Canada’s “time on the world stage” and suggested that the sport’s popularity at home will continue to grow now that rugby is back on the Olympic program, after nearly a century away from the Olympic Games.
“Adding (rugby) to the Olympic program provides a level of exposure that’s virtually unparalleled in the sport universe,” said Overholt in Victoria, BC.
Canadians will be able to get a taste of some rugby seven’s action and its stars after it was announced that this year’s America’s Rugby Championship will be held in Canada between October 11-19. All games will be held at Westhill Stadium – the official home of the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence in Langford, BC.
The tournament will include Canada, Argentina (ranked 8th), United States (12th) and a South American team to be determined once the final rankings come out for the region after the South American Championships later this month in Uruguay.
Canada reached the final of last year’s tournament before ultimately losing to Argentina.
“Hosting international Rugby at the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence is always an exciting opportunity,” said Graham Brown, CEO of Rugby Canada. “Local community support for the America’s Rugby Championship is incredible. This year, we hope to make the tournament an even better experience for fans in attendance and those watching our live stream online.”
The three day event will include six total matches being played. The team and the coaching staff are excited for the opportunity to play on home soil in front of strong crowds.
“We know this tournament is going to be a great success for Canadian rugby and for the local community,” said Kieran Crowley, Head Coach of Canada’s National Senior Men’s Team. “ Canada faces stiff competition, but we’re certain to compete hard and are looking to secure a championship on home soil.”
The tournament itself is backed by the International Rugby Board. The Board views the week as a great opportunity for the development and the growth of the sport in the region.
“The Americas Rugby Championship represents a great opportunity for the Game across North and South America,” said IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan. “(It’s) providing a competition format that will generate exciting and competitive matches. It will also allow the participating Unions to take a closer look at the development of their elite players as we look towards Rugby World Cup 2015.”
With the World Cup, Pan American Games and Olympic Games all happening over the course of a year, Rugby Canada and all its elite athletes will surely have a busy schedule ahead of them preparing and developing the sport.
Rugby made its first Olympic appearance in 1900 and the sport dates back to 1823 when a school in Rugby, England created a new way to play soccer. The International Rugby Board was formed in 1886, but not officially recognized by the IOC until 1994.
The game is played internationally and has hosted a World Cup event every four years since 1987 when it made its debut in Australia and New Zealand.
Like 15s, the aim is to pass the opposing goal line and touching the ground with the ball without passing it forward. Once the ball crosses the plane, the team scores five points. An additional two points can be scored by kicking the ball through two upright posts. Each game has two halves that last seven minutes apiece.