Australia and Olympic Rugby
Australia achieved early success in rugby union at the Olympic Games in London 1908. The Wallabies defeated Great Britain 32-3 in the Olympic final, claiming Australia’s only gold medal at the 1908 Games.
After a 92 year absence from Olympic competition, rugby returned for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with the Sevens format making its debut. It was there that Australia made history by winning the women's tournament in spectacular fashion.
The Aussie women began the tournament with big wins over Colombia (53-0) and Fiji (36-0) before finishing level with USA (12-12) to top the group and move through to the quarter-finals. Victories over Spain (24-0) and Canada (17-5) followed to set up a mouth-watering gold medal clash with New Zealand. Green scored her third try of the tournament as the Aussies ran out 24-17 winners to claim the first Olympic rugby sevens gold medal.
The men's side finished the Rio 2016 tournament in 8th after going down in the quarter-finals to South Africa.
Pierre de Coubertin admired the spirit and values of rugby union and introduced rugby in its traditional 15-man format for the Paris 1900 Games. It also appeared in the Games of London 1908, Antwerp 1920 and Paris 1924.
Even though rugby union sold more tickets than athletics in 1924, the IOC cancelled rugby as an Olympic sport and turned down the request to stage rugby at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. Three factors were believed to be behind this: the IOC wanted more emphasis on individual sports; women's athletics had increased the number of competitors; and the sport did not receive the backing that it should have from the British entries.
At the 2009 IOC Session in Copenhagen, rugby sevens was elected to join the 2016 program by a vote of 81 members to 8 after nearly a century off the Olympic program. The sevens concept was an attractive option for Olympic competition due to its speed, excitement and the number of countries competing around the world.
The readmission of rugby to the Olympic program was led by Australian women’s rugby sevens captain, Cheryl Soon and New Zealand’s Jonah Lomu. These athletes achieved a remarkable result for rugby- guaranteeing the growth of women’s rugby, giving nations such as Fiji, Samoa, Kenya, and Argentina the chance to win an Olympic medal, and involve passionate young supporters in the Olympic movement.
The Australian women climbed to the top of the podium winning the first ever rugby sevens gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In the men's tournament the Fijian side made history in Rio, not only winning the gold but in doing so won their nation's first ever Olympic medal.
Rugby sevens is contested over two seven-minute halves. Each side has seven players and the variations on regular rugby rules include drop-kick conversions and three-person scrums. Drawn matches go into extra time in five-minute periods, and the final competition match is normally contested over two ten-minute halves.