The International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA) today confirmed its full support of Rugby's campaign for Olympic Games re-inclusion.
The global body, which represents the world's top players, has pledged its backing ahead of this weekend’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai - a tournament that will see 480 of the world's best men's and women's players competing for the ultimate prize in Sevens Rugby.
"The IRPA is fully committed to the International Rugby Board's (IRB) vision to see Rugby re-included in the Olympic Games and our players have been unanimous in their support. All of them are saying ‘we’ll be there’ if Rugby Sevens is selected," said IRPA Chairman Damian Hopley, who won Rugby World Cup Sevens 1993 with England.
"Olympic inclusion would mark an important milestone for our Game and would enable Rugby and its leading principles of camaraderie, fair play, respect and teamwork to inspire a growing number of young people around the world. We also believe that it is important that all athletes are given an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and compete at the highest level possible and there is no greater global sporting stage to achieve this than the Olympic Games."
"Participating at the Games would be a unique experience for our players who would be proud to compete for the right to be called Olympians. We will be working closely with the IRB in the coming months leading up to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Session in Copenhagen to ensure that the support of our top players for the campaign is felt across the Olympic Movement," added Hopley.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "We already work closely with IRPA and are heartened by this tremendous show of support from the sport’s top players for our Olympic campaign."
"Our organisations share common goals of continuing to grow the game globally and always providing the best platform for our players to perform at the highest level. We both firmly believe that the Olympic Games are integral to achieving these and we will continue to work together to deliver on our vision.”
This announcement further strengthens the bond between IRPA and the IRB, who signed an historic agreement in 2007 with the aim of working together to develop a positive and unified approach to issues of importance to players and the Sport such as player welfare, while recognising the unique spirit, structure and ethos of the Game of Rugby Union.
IRPA’s backing follows public support from some of the world’s top players, including Bryan Habana, Agustin Pichot, Lawrence Dallaglio, women’s international Anastassiya Khamova and the world’s top referees.
“I have spoken with many of my fellow top players and each one agrees that competing at the Olympic Games would be an amazing experience. We would all be there and would be proud to call ourselves ‘Olympians’,” said Rugby World Cup 2007 winner Habana.
IRPA Board member and Argentina Sevens star Santiago Gomez Cora added: “The inclusion of Rugby Sevens at the Olympic Games would provide a massive boost to the growth of Rugby worldwide. Participation on the world’s greatest sporting stage is a dream for all players and it would provide the chance to smaller nations to win an Olympic medal.”