Rugby icons Brian O’Driscoll and Jason Robinson are backing Sevens to experience further growth in its global appeal having made a fruitful Olympic debut at Rio last year.
The pair of former British & Irish Lions are both in attendance at the latest World Series stopover in Hong Kong — the longstanding flagship tournament for the sport which has been running for over 40 years.
Brian O’Driscoll predicts there will be few bolters in the British & Irish Lions squad this year, but hopes Donnacha Ryan will force his way into the reckoning.
Robinson — who dabbled in Sevens at Twickenham during his days playing for Wigan during the mid-90s — believes the sport’s new Olympics status is not only going to increase playing participation, but attract a new audience the 15-a-side game has struggled to tap into.
“You look at 15s you know the biggest competition is a World Cup but it’s not truly global exposure,” Robinson told ESPN. “Whereas when it comes to the Olympics everybody is tuned into it. It’s great for the game, it is the short form of the game, but it’s simple, it’s easier to understand.
“You also look at the audience for Sevens as well. There’s a good young crowd, people that are likely to be on social media as well and getting really engaged at the game.”
England’s Tom Bowen puts a fend on a South Korean player at the Hong Kong Sevens. Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images
This week Uganda became the 60th country to feature in the history of the Hong Kong Sevens, and O’Driscoll is confident the carrot of chasing Olympic gold will result in steady investment from some of the world’s big hitters.
“It’s about getting into new markets and countries that love the Olympics like America, China, Germany and Russia,” O’Driscoll said.
“You have to imagine bigger funding will go into sevens projects, both men’s and women’s. The growth potential is enormous.”
Both O’Driscoll and Robinson agree that Sevens and the 15-a-side game can work hand in hand in similar respect to the different forms of the game in cricket, with the shorter Twenty20 format capturing the attention of a different audience.
“I think it can live alongside the 15s game and won’t detract from that as you’re getting new eyeballs on it and people who have never seen that version before,” O’Driscoll said.
“It’s pretty easy to understand once you get the gist of three or four basic enough rules whereas the 15s game is pretty intricate.”
Robinson continued: “It’s quite exciting. If we can work together with 15s, they don’t need to compete against each other, they can complement each other, it’s a game for all and it’s a great introduction as well into rugby.”
Brian O’Driscoll and Jason Robinson were speaking whilst at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the sixth leg on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series as it’s looks to capitalise on Rugby Sevens highly successful Olympic debut.
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY