Friday, 29 March 2013

Little brother growing up...

Is the news that former Denver Broncos running back Maurice Clarett's switch to rugby union - in a bid to make the United States Olympic Sevens team for Rio in 2016 - a sign that the balance of power is beginning to shift towards the shortened form of the game?

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm not huge fan of Sevens. I hated playing it with a passion - too damned fast and nowhere to grab a breather - and as a spectator sport it leaves me somewhat cold. It's a great live event at which to catch up with old buddies over a few beers but, at least for me, as a sporting spectacle it's just a tad too simplistic, lacking the structure and tactical nuances of the fifteen-man game.

Of course it is this simplicity that makes Sevens so accessible, and it is this accessibility factor that threatens the longer form of the game. The likes of Fiji and Samoa eat regularly at the Sevens top table and have now been joined by Kenya, while at the recent Hong Kong Sevens Portugal finished top of a pool featuring Samoa, England and Scotland. As far as spreading the rugby gospel worldwide goes, Sevens is already streets ahead of its older sibling.

Currently the IRB's membership rules state that both forms must be played by its member countries but, with Sevens now an Olympic sport, for how much longer will the IRB continue to insist this is the case? The recruitment of 29 year old Clarett, following the impact already made by flier Carlin Isles, is  something of a statement of intent by the Americans who are clearly taking Olympic rugby very seriously indeed. How long before other Olympic superpowers, China and Russia for instance, follow suit?

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