Source: Martin Seras Lima/World Rugby

Great Britain Rugby Sevens programme unveiled

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Great Britain Rugby Sevens has announced details for its sevens programme in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

This follows both England men’s and women’s sides finishing in the top four of the end-of-season rankings on the HSBC Sevens World Series which guaranteed qualification for Team GB.

Great Britain Rugby Sevens Limited has been officially ratified by the British Olympic Association (BOA) and World Rugby and is a union between the Rugby Football Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and the Scottish Rugby Union.

The three unions each have a representative appointed on the Board of Directors (Ian Ritchie, RFU, Robert Howat, SRU and Gareth Davies, WRU) as well as two executive committee members: Rob Andrew,  Joe Lydon, RFU; Toni Blackhurst, Stephen Gemmell SRU, Julie Paterson, Josh Lewsey, WRU.

The GB Rugby Sevens performance structure will see Joe Lydon, the RFU’s Head of International Player Development, lead on the jointly run programmes as performance manager.

In order to be eligible for selection, athletes must hold a British passport and should have previous sevens experience at international level having played in any one or more of the following tournaments in the 14-month period prior to the  Rio 2016 Olympic Games:

  • World Rugby International World Sevens Series
  • Rugby Europe International Sevens tournaments
  • Invitational preparation tournament

Eligible players will be required to express their interest in being selected through their respective home union’s performance programmes.

A recruitment process is currently underway for the coaching roles (head coach and assistant coaches) for each of the men and women’s sides with the candidates largely expected to come from nominations from the home unions. Each of the unions will be represented on the selection panel as well as an independent from the BOA.

Outside the tournaments, the main preparation with the players as a wider squad will begin from June 2016 through a series of training camps, with a final squad of 12 players selected in July 2016 just prior to the start of the Olympic Games.

Ian Ritchie, RFU Chief Executive Officer said: “We are delighted to have successfully qualified on behalf of Team GB for both the men and women’s teams. It is a huge achievement and to be part of the Olympics Games is hugely exciting for not only Great Britain but also for the game globally. We are pleased to be part of this union between the RFU, WRU and SRU and are committed to ensuring we all work in partnership and provide what is needed to give GB Sevens the best possible platform to perform in Rio next year.”

Mark Dodson, Scottish Rugby Chief Executive said: “Sevens was invented here in Scotland, and recognising the pace at which the sport is growing at a global level, we welcome the announcement of the Team GB programme for the Olympic Games in Rio and look forward to working with the RFU and WRU to establish a successful team.”

Gareth Davies, WRU Chairman said: “The introduction of the Sevens game and the inclusion of Team GB team in the Olympic Games is a historic landmark for the game of rugby union. I am delighted players from Wales will have the chance to compete for selection and the opportunity to compete for Olympic medals. We look forward to working closely within the structure and with all the home nations involved to make sure we help create an exciting and competitive squad for this great competition.”

Lord Coe, British Olympic Association Chairman added: “We are delighted to formally welcome Great Britain Rugby Sevens Limited to our National Olympic Committee and British Olympic Family. We very much look forward to supporting rugby sevens and their athletes on their journey to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

Mark England, Team GB Rio 2016 Chef de Mission said about GB Sevens’ inclusion into the Olympic family: “It’s fantastic to welcome rugby sevens to Team GB and it’s hugely exciting to know that we will be represented in the sport at an Olympic Games for the first time. For both the men’s and women’s teams to secure the required top four finish in the first qualification phase is a great achievement and we can now look forward to  Rio 2016.”

Joe Lydon said: “To have sevens at the Olympic Games is massive for the sport and we want to make sure we give GB Rugby Sevens the best chance to succeed next year in Rio. The first step was to qualify this year and we are delighted that the England men and women have done that through the first route of the qualification process. It is a real testament to the hard work and attitude shown by all the players, coaches and management.

“The next step is to get the GB Rugby Sevens programme operational, particularly focussing around the appointment of the coaching teams and the recruitment of players, as we look ahead to the start of next season. We need to strike a balance between a core group of sevens players whose experience will be vital going into an Olympic campaign and the ability to transition players from the XVs game to enable time to adjust to the unique demands of the sevens game.”