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World Rugby chief hails Rio 2016 ‘game-changer’

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has hailed rugby union’s return to the summer Olympic Games, stating the inclusion of the sevens format has already proved a “game-changer” for the sport.

Australia’s women and Fiji’s men were awarded rugby’s first gold medals in 92 years last week, with the inclusion of rugby sevens deemed a huge success. Fiji created Olympic Games history by winning their nation’s first medal through defeating Great Britain 43-7, while Australia dispatched New Zealand 24-17 to claim women’s gold.

Rugby sevens and golf were added to the Rio 2016 sports programme in 2009 and Beaumont said on Saturday: “Over six exciting days of rugby, they (the players) have showcased the very best of our sport and its character-building values, demonstrating why we believe it is a perfect fit for the Olympic Games.

“Olympic inclusion has been a game-changer for our sport, inspiring a new generation of players and fans. Since being voted back on to the programme in 2009, we have seen participation double to 7.73 million and we are determined to maximise the Rio 2016 halo effect. Our national unions are embracing the Olympic opportunity and we will continue to encourage children to try, play and stay in the game through our mass participation Get Into Rugby programmes in schools and sports clubs.”

The road to Tokyo 2020 will begin later this year for the world’s top men’s and women’s teams at the Dubai opener of the World Rugby Sevens Series.