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IRB wants union stars like Israel Folau to play in Rio Olympics 7s

Meanwhile, the Irish Women’s Sevens squad are in Brive for the FIRA/AER European Women’s Championship.

Folau would be lethal in the open spaces of the sevens game.
Folau would be lethal in the open spaces of the sevens game.
Image: Rob Griffith

GLOBAL RUGBY CHIEF Brett Gosper has urged international unions to play their star names at the 2016 Rio Olympics Sevens to maximise the sport’s opportunity on the world stage.

Gosper said that while the value of having regular sevens players must be properly respected, rugby’s chances of becoming a permanent Olympic sport may rely on an injection of star power from the traditional, more high-profile 15s game.

“In 2017, straight after Rio, they’ll decide if rugby continues to be a core sport at the Olympics. We will be in Japan (2020) as well but that may be it,” Gosper told reporters in Sydney.

“We’ve got to work very hard to ensure we’ll be successful at Rio… because a lot of money comes into rugby because of the Olympics. It really is a differentiator. A powerful draw for youth, spectators and players to be part of an Olympic adventure.

“The profile of the players in 15s is obviously something which has a lot of impact. We think it’s important and the Olympics would like us to have them there.

We would hope the unions would make it easy for those top players who want to be part of the Olympics. It’s good for their country, good for the sport and good for the Olympics.”

Gosper said he would personally love to see exciting Wallabies fullback Israel Folau and England powerhouse Manu Tuilagi feature at the 2016 Rio Games.

Australian Sevens coach Geraint John said he is open to the idea of including union stars in his squad for the 2016 Olympics, but only if they spend a significant amount of time integrating themselves with the game in the lead-up months.

Shannon Houston 1/9/2010 Shannon Houston captains the Irish Women's Sevens side in Brive this weekend. Source: Andrew Fosker

The IRFU are still without a senior men’s sevens team, although an U19 side did compete at a FIRA invitational Sevens tournament in Lisbon in May.

The Ireland Women’s Sevens squad are in Brive this weekend for the second leg of the FIRA/AER European Women’s Championship. Jon Skurr’s side will compete against the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium in Pool C.

“We were disappointed by our overall performance in Moscow (in the first leg) and will be looking to significantly improve on that this weekend in Brive,” said Skurr.

“In patches we played some good rugby but lacked consistency throughout the tournament. We’re going into this next round knowing that we can’t control what other teams do but we can control what we do and therefore have to remain focused on our performance levels.”

Ireland Women’s Sevens Squad in Brive:

Shannon Houston (Blackrock/ Leinster) (Capt.)
Martina McCarthy (Talent ID Programme)
Elaine Ryan (Talent ID Programme)
Nicole Cronin (Shannon/Munster)
Megan Williams (Saracens/Exiles)
Hannah Tyrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe (Clanwilliam RFC/Munster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Siobhan Barrett (Tralee/Munster)
Laura Lee Walsh (Talent ID Programme)
Susan Vaughan (Railway Union/ Leinster)

- © AFP, 2014

- Additional reporting by TheScore.ie

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