Can Olympic 7s bring union and league players together?
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106 IOC members voted yesterday to include rugby 7s into the Olympic programme for Rio 2016. With the lure of an Olympic gold medal and the desire to see Australia succeed in the spotlight of the Summer Games, the ARU and Australia’s governing league body should make the best players from both sports available.
Imagine the excitement generated from a 7s tournament in the weeks leading up to the cut-off date to finalise Australia’s Olympic team.
Only one weekend every four years would have to be set aside from the NRL and rugby union calendar in Australia.
24 teams could easily be fielded, playing out of a packed SFS, Homebush or Lang Park.
Teams could be entered from the five Australian Super 15 provinces, the 16 (or more by 2016) Australian NRL clubs, an Aboriginal select, and two more from the Australian club rugby scene or other special select teams.
Players from the already established 7s squad playing in the IRB’s World 7s Series could bolster the squads of the Super 15 teams.
The tournament would be a smash-hit with the public.
The ARU may not play ball over a Kangaroos-Wallabies exhibition, but the added playing strength of a combined union/league 7s squad for the Olympics would be a great incentive for the ARU and NRL equivalent to make this happen.
There’s no reason why league players cannot make an immediate successful transition to union 7s.
Three man scrums and two man lineouts would not be a problem for the league boys.
Concerns over rucks and mauls would not be a serious impediment as history has shown that English rugby league sides such as Bradford and Wigan have triumphed in the Middlesex Sevens since union went professional.
Cast a thought to the power, speed and skill of such a side if picked from players today.
Inglis and Folau; Hayne, Giteau and Slater; George Smith and David Pocock against Nathan Hindmarsh and Anthony Watmough; and steppers like the ageless Preston Campbell, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale.
But let’s not get picky. Each team would have star power.
The match-ups would provide countless talking points for fans of both codes as their heroes matched each other one-on-one.
Furthermore, a tournament showcasing the pace, skill and action of 7s would bring to the fore skillful players from outside present representative teams.
In the quest for an elusive and iconic Olympic gold medal, the tournament would provide selectors a magnificent platform from which to choose a truly unified Australian 7s squad.