Australia and Olympic Rugby Union
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.
Today Australia is one of the top ranked nations in the newly adopted Olympic format- rugby sevens. The Australian women’s team won the inaugural World Cup Sevens Championship in 2009 and will hope to build on this form leading into Rio 2016. In 2010 the Australian men were beaten in the final seconds of the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Match by New Zealand.
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.
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.