Ryan thrilled by Olympic prospects
August 13, 2009
England Sevens coach Ben Ryan is excited by the prospect of Sevens at the Olympics © Getty Images
England Sevens coach Ben Ryan has hailed the recommendation of Sevens as an Olympic sport as a potential 'watershed' moment for world rugby.
Sevens, along with golf, has been recommended for inclusion at the 2016 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board - with the final decision set to be made by the full IOC council in October.
Ryan, who led England to victory at the Wellington and London Sevens last season, believes that nothing should be taken for granted but also found it hard to overstate the changes that would appear should the proposal be rubber-stamped.
"You want to make sure that you don't count your chickens but it's a huge step forward," he said. "Fingers crossed, as long as we get the majority of votes that we need from the IOC then today will be a watershed day for world rugby.
"I don't think people fully understand the box that's about to be opened, it's going to be huge. There's a huge amount of funding with Sevens now, it's going to be a markedly different landscape."
The International Rugby Board (IRB) are hopeful that Olympic inclusion will open up new avenues for developing rugby as a world game, with the USA and Russia just two areas that they hope to branch out into.
Ryan understands this thinking and is well aware of the benefits available after a conversation with USA Sevens coach Al Caravelli.
"Once the US get Olympic inclusion they should get an increased $2.5million in funding from the Olympic committee there," he said. "Think about that around the globe, countries that would not have paid too much attention to Sevens will now look at it far more seriously. The Chinese and Russians are obvious examples; standards are going to go up."
The IRB failed with a bid for Olympic inclusion in 2005, when the development of the women's game was a sticking point. The 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens has partly changed that view, with the men's and women's tournaments running parallel in Dubai.
"In 2005 they just didn't address the women's game as strongly as they did now," said Ryan. "The women's game still has a long way to go in terms of development and getting a wider base of teams but you've got to remember it's 2016 that they're looking at for inclusion. That's enough time to push through and become a serious world class sport.
"From the men's point of view the standards have gone through the roof. Even four years ago, looking outside Fiji, New Zealand, ourselves and South Africa really no-one else was in it. Now, the Kenyans and Americans are regularly hitting quarter-finals and semi-finals.
"I see other teams creeping up now, like Tunisia, Portugal and Canada, it's becoming more and more a possibility that they could get to the top end in the fifteens game."
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup