Rugby is Back
Rugby originally made its Olympic debut in Paris in 1900 when it was a 15-man sport. In its first year as an Olympic sport, the French beat Germany and Great Britain to win the gold medal. However, despite its popularity, Rugby was dropped from the competition 1924 and since then numerous attempts have been made to bring it back to the Olympic field.
The decision for its inclusion was made in 2009 with welcome arms. Counting rugby as an Olympic sport has come with overwhelming support and provides an opportunity for smaller nations to also take part in the Games.
The competition in 2016 will be a rugby sevens format, rather than 15-a-side, played on a full-sized pitch. This will make the game one that is very exciting to watch as the space and small number of team members makes rugby sevens a fast-paced and action-packed game which requires incredible team work as well as individual skill.
In 2016 there will be both men’s and women’s competitions, with 12 teams for each, which will be split into three groups of four. Team qualification began with the 2014–15 Sevens World Series (men's) and 2014–15 World Rugby
Women's Sevens Series, where the 4 teams at the top of the standings qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games.
In June-September 2015, each of the six regional rugby unions held an Olympic qualification event, where one team from each region qualified. The final spot will be determined by a repechage tournament held on 18th and 19th June 2016 in which all 16 competing nations will play each other once, with the overall winner qualifying for the Olympics. The nations vying for this final spot come from across the world: 4 from Europe, 3 from Africa, 3 from Asia, 2 from Oceania, 2 from North America and 2 from South America. Whilst America is the leading champion of the rugby sevens competition, the team that is set to win the Olympics competition is anyone’s bet.
Rugby is considered to be one of the most dangerous of the Olympic sports, something that had it excluded from the Games in the past. Whilst the sevens format will mean there is more space on the field, which should lessen the chance of serious injury from happening, there is still a risk of players suffering from concussions and head trauma, which are ongoing issues being addressed by the various rugby authorities around the world.