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New ARU boss says sevens is way forward

By Melissa Woods,


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    New Australian Rugby Union (ARU) boss Bill Pulver says Australia is lagging behind the world for funding in sevens rugby, which he sees as the growth area for the game.

    Pulver also wants to revive a third-tier national rugby competition and believes it could fall to the responsibility of Super Rugby clubs.

    Starting in the top job this week after replacing John O’Neill, Pulver was addressing a 1000-strong crowd at a Weary Dunlop lunch where the Melbourne Rebels squad was introduced.

    With sevens to be played at the Olympics in Rio in 2016, Pulver said it was an area to be further embraced.

    Currently, Australian sevens representatives can’t play Super Rugby, and Wallabies such as Melbourne’s James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale are unable to play sevens – something Pulver would like to see changed.

    “I am convinced that sevens rugby is a big, big part of the future of the game,” said Pulver.

    “It is going to be the best opportunity for us to diversify the rugby audience in Australia.

    “The opportunities to expanding our geographies and our demographics is sevens.”

    The Australian men’s sevens side has long been used as a development team and is ranked 10th in the world while the women’s team is No.2.

    Pulver said rugby needed to dangle a sevens gold medal in front of school students to convince them to play the sport rather than AFL or rugby league.

    Rugby Union Players’ Association boss Greg Harris has proposed a plan for a third-tier competition involving nine Australian universities, however Pulver was more enthusiastic about the Super teams taking ownership.

    He said he’d like to see academies in NSW and Queensland, currently run by the ARU, returned to the states.

    “It should be within the Super franchises themselves,” he said of the third-tier league.

    “We have no direct pathway for players after school – they essentially disappear from high-quality competitive rugby until they make it for Super Rugby.

    “There’s a good case for those academies back to states instead of being centralised and they become (a) source of players for third-tier competition.”

    Pulver also addressed the shocking revelations this week of doping in sport that rugby has so far escaped.

    He said the ARU set up an integrity unit in 2008, led by former detective and Wallabies team manager Phil Thompson, which meant the code was better prepared than its rivals.

    But he said rugby still needed to be vigilant.

    “While I’m delighted that rugby wasn’t front and centre in terms of the current review, it would be naive of us to think that it’s not an issue.”

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • February 9th 2013 @ 10:20am
      Tim Murray said | February 9th 2013 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Sevens is the way forward for all Bills reasons and more. It will do to 15 a side what 20-20 has done to cricket. Viewers/ spectators want action and feel part of an event. We have the chance to attract a much younger audience which is easily seen if you attend an IRB event.

      • February 9th 2013 @ 3:18pm
        Justin2 said | February 9th 2013 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

        Yes but has test cricket yielded dividends due to 20/20? Different games, they just happen to have the same name 🙂

    • February 9th 2013 @ 12:30pm
      tc said | February 9th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

      What a good positive article for once ,despite what some say on this site Australian rugby is moving ahead and 7s will just add to that momentum . The administration of the ARU has now been changed and will hopefully lead to a more nation wide approach to Australias vast distances .
      Tim personally I think 7s will compliment 15s not over shadow it , I think its greatest asset is its party type atmosphere and as long as they keep it clean it will attract the young for the right reasons.

      • February 9th 2013 @ 12:40pm
        Matthew Skellett said | February 9th 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        absolutely right TC makes you think what a sorry performance Mr O’Neill did second edition but it’s early days and the proof will be in the pudding served up to the Australian public but here’s to exciting times ahead 🙂

    • February 9th 2013 @ 12:46pm
      Bruce Lee said | February 9th 2013 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

      Kids, say no to drugs. Come plays rugby sevens instead and you can win a medal!

    • Roar Guru

      February 9th 2013 @ 2:43pm
      Cattledog said | February 9th 2013 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

      A good article and some good vision shown by Bill Pulver. Financially, giving the 3rd tier to the Super franchises makes significant sense as there’s no need to replicate in many cases. I believe, however, that there probably needs to be more than five teams so the ARU will have to decide how best to swing this aspect. Perhaps the Reds and Waratahs can support two academies, an additional one in Western Sydney and a QLD Country based academy (Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast or further north if appropriate). Obviously, they would require additional funding from the ARU to persue this. The ARU could also have an academy making up eight in total. Games would be played as curtain raisers to the Super games.

      In doing this, however, players should be drawn mainly from the premier players currently playing around the countryside and those who show the necessary skills and promise from the areas without a premier level comp.

      I also like the idea of pushing the rugby 7s approach. Whilst some 15 man game purists may see this as a degradation to some extend, the following and extent of younger support coupled with the 2016 Olympics means significant inroads to the 15 man game can be made if marketed correctly and we give it a high enough priority to be up there in medal contention.

      Perhaps the future is looking somewhat brighter for rugby.

    • February 9th 2013 @ 3:01pm
      p.Tah said | February 9th 2013 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

      Mr Pulver have a chat with Peters and Tew and get a SANZAR Sevens set up over the summer perIod. 16 teams in total: 5 teams from NZ, 5 from Oz and 6 from SA (includes the Kings and Lions). If SA is unavailable bring in the Pacific Islands.
      Host 2 or 3 tournaments in Australian and NZ when the Spring Tour is on in November. Winter football fans are in withdrawal straight after the Grand Finals and will watch any type of football in our time zones for a fix.

      Wallabies/All Blacks wont be available but the next best will.

      • February 11th 2013 @ 2:24pm
        JBees said | February 11th 2013 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

        Nice thought but it’s not going to happen in a hurray. NZ have many comps with our own Provincal teams all 20 of them which are seriously contested every summer and have been since 1975 except 87, 88 & 2003. I went to a NZ club comp before the Wellington 7’s and a club team ( Te Puna) that had 5 NZ players, (Gordon T given them a run) lost to a bunch of nobody’s (Rangataua) in the final which seems to make sense after the way NZ played in Wellington. Oz played better than them during that tournament and should’ve gone through instead of NZ, just my thoughts.

    • February 9th 2013 @ 3:02pm
      nickoldschool said | February 9th 2013 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

      No doubt sevens has its place but I have the impression the money spent for its development will be be taken from the XV format, which would be an error IMO.

      Sevens is a different sport than union, more so than 20/20 and test cricket IMO. Am not sure that the people we will attract by developing it will switch to XV, go to stadiums, play the game etc. yes there is an audience for it and most of us love watching these two day tournaments. Would we want more? Not sure. The XV game still has a lot of appeal and I think we have not yet seen what it could be if we find the right competition format and rules. It has the potential to be as ‘fun’ and exciting as the sevens with this extra intensity and diversity that only the XV man game can bring. Hope Mr Pulver doesn’t only think strass and olympics. There are many non Olympic sports which are great to watch and play too.