Fiji and Samoa have a great opportunity to win a medal for the first time in their nations’ histories when Rugby returns to the Olympic Games programme in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, according to IRB Chief Executive Brett Gosper.
Present at the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) AGM in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday where 16 Oceania Unions gathered for a programme of strategic workshops and meetings, Gosper has been quick to highlight the benefits to all IRB Member Unions on the inclusion of Rugby Sevens at Rio 2016.
“If you look at the top Sevens sides in the world, you have some countries there that don’t win many medals at the Olympic Games. Rugby will be a great opportunity for them. Take Fiji, for example. They have never won a medal but Rio could change all that," said Gosper.
“The same can be said for Samoa, who will be another of the favourites to win a medal in 2016. The other big Pacific Island team, Tonga, has won just one medal previously – in boxing – so they will have the chance to add to that tally.”
“That is the beauty of Olympic inclusion as far as Rugby is concerned. There is the enormous incentive of having medals on offer. It is already helping us to grow the global Game.”
Gosper also praised FORU for the progress it has made under its new strategic plan.
“The strategic partnership with the Oceania National Olympic Committees is a model for other regions in terms of Olympic engagement. Development programmes of our Member Unions are being restructured to ensure Rugby continues to grow in that region for both boys and girls.”
“Currently, there is an AUS$2.5million partnership between the IRB, Australian Rugby Union and the Australian Government to foster community development through Rugby. This is hugely positive for our great sport. We have already seen initiatives like this bearing fruit as the performances of Pacific Island teams during Rugby World Cup 2011 and during the November international window in 2012 have shown.”
Gosper also highlighted the achievement of the Tonga men’s team as they kept alive their hopes of core team status on next season's HSBC Sevens World Series by booking their place in the qualifying competition at the final round of this year's Series in London, and the rise of women’s Rugby Sevens in Papua New Guinea.
“A focus area for the IRB in the coming years will be a renewed emphasis on administrative and governance structures that underpin those performance outcomes. The IRB and Member Unions will be addressing ongoing administration and governance challenges currently being faced,” said Gosper.
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