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Pick Seven Guys. Easy?

Rio - pic: wikipedia
pic: wikipedia

We are most of the way through what can only be described as a momentous Olympics for Team GB, and the eyes of the rugby world are already turning their thoughts to Brazil 2016 and the introduction of the Seven a side game to the the world’s biggest sporting stage.

No doubt the thought has crossed the minds of players from both the sevens and XVs game of donning Team GB colours, in fact Ben Foden recently announced on Twitter he’d love the opportunity to be there (albeit without having yet put the hard work in). But whilst I’m sure there is no shortage of players who would be willing to try and win the first rugby sevens gold medal it does leave me wondering one thing – not who will they pick, but how will they pick them?

Speaking to people at my local club the answer is simple where the football selection was not – assemble a Lions sevens team. That won’t fully work as the Lions also represent Ireland and Ireland take their own teams to the games. Northern Irish hockey players can elect to play for Ireland or GB, so perhaps a similar option would be available to any who fancied turning out in Sevens (Ireland does not currently compete on the IRB circuit).

Plus simply putting together a Lions team and assuming they will be accepted into the competition is naive, as teams will likely have to qualify first and we’re not on home soil.

For athletes and teams to compete in the Olympics they have usually won some sort of qualifying competition, for example in the football the European teams will have got to certain stages in the UEFA under 21s Football Championship. Using this sort of logic (and assuming there are no strange age restrictions) an obvious qualification route for any sevens team wishing to take part in the Olympics would be through the European or IRB Sevens Series or similar events. Now that’s very simple for most countries, but Britain isn’t most countries. “Great Britain” doesn’t take part in those competitions, the home nations compete individually. So how would we qualify? Would there have to be a Lions team competing on the IRB circuit alongside or instead of the Welsh, Scottish and English Sevens Squads? The process of any temporary unification should be at least eased due to the co-operation between Unions already present with the Lions.

As with the football we could qualify through one Union’s side, the Team GB football side qualifies for Olympic games through England’s position, as the FA is responsible for the team – normally they choose not to enter one because of the politics involved with both the SFA and FIFA. Could the same thing happen with the sevens, and a GB side qualify through on say England’s rankings?

Working out how the teams qualify is the first part of the nightmare, then you have the selection processes. Could regular 15s players just drop in or would it be limited to just sevens players? Should star power be allowed to overrule those who toil weekly on the circuit. Should it be like Olympic football, or Olympic basketball? And who qualifies to play for which country (could Visser play for the Netherlands?). Will Colin Gregor and Andy Turnbull – our genuine class Sevens players – still be around in 2016?

Luckily this isn’t my problem. I’ve just got to worry about how I’m going to get to Brazil and enjoy some sun-soaked, samba-soundtracked Sevens.

Additional reporting: Rory Baldwin

8 Responses

  1. Surely the fact that three of the four nations are represented on the IRB sevens circuit qualifies us.

  2. Northern Irish hockey players are now required to be registered with the Irish Hockey Association if playing their hockey in Ulster or Irish leagues so to stop them switching to GB for the Olympics. Iain Lewers had to give up playing for Ireland for three years to be able to play for GB at London 2012. He ended up scoring in the bronze medal game yesterday for GB.

  3. This is easily sorted. We just enter the Berwick 7s squad. English based side playing in Scotland so no eligibility issues plus they won the Hawick Linden 7s this year so they’ve got some form going into 2016

  4. I think based on the performance of the current Scotland 7, it’s something we shouldn’t be too concerned about. Maybe the SRU should hold their hands up and say we’re out so that we can save the additional funding this is going to require being set aside (re: http://www.scotsman.com/sport/rugby/top-rugby-stories/rugby-sru-chief-warns-of-squeeze-on-revenues-as-sevens-enters-olympics-1-2456066), when if we continue with our current performance Scottish qualified players are not going to get a sniff at representing TeamGB.

    Standing by for the post referendum discussion about we’ll be TeamScotland by then.

  5. Look why cant people understand the situation in irish rugby. The sport in ireland is run on an all-island basis, 4 equal provinces feeding into the national team. No ulster player will compete for any g. b. team because that could potentially cause a split in irish rugby and there is no way that the people who administer the game in ulster are going to let that happen. Any way what about the ulster players from monaghan ,cavan and donegale. g. Tommy Bowe. The whole 7 a side thing in the olympics is not really serious anyway and will derive no real benifit for the development of the 15 man game.

    1. The inclusion of Sevens has already seen growth in countries such as Russia where only Olympic sports can be on the school curriculum for PE. Give them a few years and they could be scary good…

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