By: James Smith
We know you’ve been following all the action from London with an overflow of patriotic enthusiasm, but if you’re like us, you’ve been feeling that there’s something missing. Well, you’ve been right: this Olympics has had a distinct lack of rugby football, and the International Olympic Committee agrees with you that it’s time for this oversight to end. To that end, they made an under-the-radar way back in 2009 to include rugby sevens on the 2016 roster. Rugby sevens is played by the same rules as rugby union, just with seven players per side instead of fifteen.
What’s the significance? Well, for one, the Summer Olympic slate will hit its self-imposed cap of 28 sports, with rugby and golf being the new additions. More importantly, it’s another milestone in the growing popularity of a sport that’s been around seemingly forever but that has been overshadowed at home and abroad by different kinds of football (American football in the USA and association football / soccer internationally). Between its two variants, rugby union and rugby league, the sport is widely popular in its home country of the United Kingdom, and enjoys substantial followings in many areas where the British Empire ruled, including New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. But, despite its developed international structure and popular appeal, no form of rugby has been on the Olympic slate since three teams competed for the gold medal in 1924.
Back then, the version of the game played at the Olympics was rugby union, and very few teams competed -- just three in 1924, when the Americans took home the gold. You can expect that the competition will be a little bit stiffer in 2016, so the Americans may have some trouble defending an almost 100-year-old title. Either way, though, it’ll be good to have rugby back in some form.
[Pic via Wikimedia Commons - kelseye]