Boost for Danish rugby ahead of Norway trip

(IRB.COM) Friday 16 October 2009
 
 Boost for Danish rugby ahead of Norway trip
The match in Bergen has been dubbed the "Clash of the Vikings"

Denmark's capital Copenhagen will forever have its place in rugby folklore as the city where, on 9 October 2009, the International Olympic Committee members voted to admit Rugby Sevens into the 2016 Olympic Games.

While the significance of this decision isn't lost on the Danish Rugby Union's president Ole Nielsen, he will also be hoping to see the national team enjoy success on the pitch with victory over Norway in a European Nations Cup encounter dubbed the "Clash of the Vikings".

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"It's absolutely fantastic!" Nielsen told Total Rugby. "It's a nice feeling that such an important decision has been made in the Danish capital and it is a great opportunity for Danish rugby to show off our sport, both in Denmark and internationally."

The sport first arrived in Denmark in the 1930s, when the police force started to play matches. There are now 27 clubs and several thousand players and most of the national squad are Danish-born, including Søren Brobyskov.

"If you look at the international rankings, it's clear to see that we have dropped back recently. That's mainly because we have access to less Government funding now than before," he explained.

"So I think being part of the Olympics will be an important incentive, not only to the players but also for the Union in terms of securing Olympic backing, as this is such a major sport worldwide."

Around the world the same story is repeated again and again for smaller nations - Olympic acceptance should mean more Government funding for the sport and improved preparation for the nation's top players. Coach Chris Adby is hoping this is the case for Denmark.

"We need to train more together, and that is the same as money basically. All the people here have travelled over by their own expense and staying over with players from Copenhagen to keep expenses down," said Denmark's national coach.

"So we can get as many training sessions in as people. That is one thing, the amount of games we can play is another thing. There could be a way of reorganising the tournaments so we can get more games in."

Benefits of Olympic recognition

More Government funding will allow for better training, not just for players but also for coaches and referees. That, in turn, should improve standards at every level of the game in the country. For the sport to grow in Denmark, Nielsen believes Olympic recognition means much more than it does in Rugby's traditional nations.

"In Denmark, and in most of our neighbouring countries, being part of the Olympics makes a big difference. In countries such as Denmark, funding becomes a serious problem if the sport is not an Olympic event. As soon as we are accepted as an Olympic event, financing at elite level will be noticeably easier."

And being part of the biggest stage in world sport also means greater visibility for Rugby.

"Knowledge of the game is mainly spread through word of mouth and one of the big challenges for us today is to explain what the game entails when new players join. Obviously Olympic participation will make that immeasurably easier."

Of course, 2016 remains a long way off. In the meantime, playing numbers are growing and regular tournaments ensure that youth Rugby is in a healthy state. There's no doubt that rugby remains a minority sport in Denmark, but for those trying to spread the word, life just got a little bit easier.

"There's no doubt that the kids are very aware of the vote," said Secretary General Rie Godvin. "They do know what's going on. All children know what the Olympics are and to be able to go home to their families and friends and tell them that Rugby is now an Olympic sport will make the sport much more accepted."

A victory over rivals Norway in Bergen this weekend wouldn't go down badly either.