Rugby is growing rapidly worldwide and the game is more competitive than ever according to Rugby Europe and IOC Member Octavian Morariu. The recent Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series demonstrates the depth in quality as European champions Russia took home both the Men’s and Women’s titles, seeing off challenges from Olympics representatives Great Britain, France and Spain.
A huge part of this growth is due to the increasing popularity of the sevens game, a key area of focus for Rugby Europe, the governing body responsible for the promotion, development and management of the sport in Europe.
Rugby returned to world sport’s biggest stage for the first time in 92 years in the form of sevens at this summer’s Rio Olympics. With a successful Olympics for rugby sevens behind us, Morariu discussed how the sevens game has grown in Europe and what the future might hold post the Rio games.
Rugby Europe President Octavian Morariu said: “Sevens is an important gateway to the sport that has changed a huge amount in the last ten years. It is a big focus of Rugby Europe at the moment. The increasing popularity of the sevens game will get more people playing and helps the development of the 15-a-side game, as well as sevens itself.”
“Rugby Europe has had, and continues to have, a major role in developing sevens in Europe. Our role in developing European sevens is very important as we have done a huge amount of work for a number of years to increase both the numbers of nations playing sevens regularly and the quality of that sevens rugby.”
Rugby Europe is determined to capitalise on the increased exposure that the sevens game will get from its Olympic inclusion, something that World Rugby predicts will lead to the number of sevens players doubling worldwide over the next decade.
Morariu continued: “The Olympics represents a huge opportunity for rugby. Governments are investing in sevens because it is an Olympic sport. Schools will invest in the game and get more children playing. Poland and Romania are already bringing sevens rugby into schools. That is exactly what we want, to get rugby played in schools all around Europe, whether that is sevens, fifteen-a-side or both.”
Many of the nations that have qualified for the Olympics are countries with well-established rugby cultures, such as New Zealand and France, but Morariu feels that the Olympic impact will best be felt in non-traditional rugby nations such as Spain.
He said: “Spain’s qualification is a huge testament to the quality of Spanish rugby and the work that we have been doing for years. There will be no better tool to raise the profile of Spanish rugby than going to the Olympics and it will lay some great foundations.”
Morariu expects the sevens game, and rugby in general, to benefit hugely from its return to the Olympic Games, but still recognises plenty of work to be done worldwide and in Europe.
“Europe is the continent with a proper Sevens Grand Prix series, and I think the strength in depth has been seen in the Olympic qualification. We would like to add more legs to the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series, ideally taking up to five tournaments in the near future. We will need to work with World Rugby on this to develop the calendar and fit in more sevens.”
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