Sevens No.1 priority for ARU in 2016

14 February 2014

ARU boss Bill Pulver says winning an Olympic gold medal is an even greater priority for 2016 than Test match rugby and he will support Wallabies stars being made available to play Sevens in Brazil.

Australia will throw everything at winning the 2015 World Cup, but after that Pulver says the No.1 focus will switch from Tests to Sevens and giving Michael O'Connor's team the best possible players and preparation for Rio.

But despite the prestige of an Olympics and the valuable exposure Australian rugby could gain by winning gold, it's an approach which could raise eyebrows amongst the game's traditionalists.

In the bread and butter of Test match football, the Wallabies haven't lifted the Bledisloe Cup in 12 years and last won the Rugby Championship/Tri Nations in 2011.

Pulver says the ARU board must first come up with a strategy to balance the 15s Test schedule with the Sevens circuit, but believes if Wallabies players are keen on putting in the 12 months preparation required to go to the Olympics, then red tape shouldn't stand in the way of them being considered.

"I personally take the view that if you look at the objectives for 2016 for Australian rugby, I think winning a medal in the men's and women's events is right up there as our No.1 priority for that year," Pulver told AAP.

"I'm clearly committed to the fact that where players are eager to represent their country in the Olympics and Michael O'Connor wants them to be available, that we will find a way to make that happen. How we do that is to be worked out.

"But there's a balancing act here because in 2015 the priority, by a long way, is to win the World Cup. Once you're into 2016 it will be to win Olympic gold."

Australia are currently ranked fifth in Sevens rugby, and many believe injecting the likes of Israel Folau and Quade Cooper could boost the team's chances of knocking over heavyweights New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa for Olympic gold.

However, Sevens coach O'Connor wants Wallabies players wishing to make themselves available for Rio, to spend 12 months on the IRB circuit familiarising themselves with the specialist game, and Pulver has backed that assertion.

"A lot of people think just take your dream team and run them on in the Olympics - it doesn't work that way. That's a recipe for disaster," Pulver said.

"The best rugby teams are those that are made up of players who have been playing together for a long time and form combinations and understand how each other plays.

"You've got to give Michael O'Connor a runway to prepare that team to be ready to win and I think that runway, presuming you qualify, is at least the full year after the World Cup."

AAP

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