IRB Conference 2014: IRB Happy With Rio 2016 Rugby Preparations

November 18, 2014

By Christian Radnedge

The Chairman of the International Rugby Board, buy Bernard Lapasset, says preparations are “on-track” for the debut of rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Lapasset (pictured) was speaking at the IRB Conference at London’s Hilton Metropole, which welcomed hundreds of delegates from across more than 50 countries for the opening day on Monday.

After opening the conference, Lapasset took the time to address concerns about the fact that construction work on the Deodoro venue cluster where rugby will be hosted had not begun until August.

With the Games just more than 18 months away, the chairman was confident that organisers would soon be up to speed.

“We are good, we are on-track,” he said speaking to iSportconnect. “We were in Nanjing in the summer for the youth Olympic Games, it was a first test event for us in rugby sevens in the Olympic format.

“That was great and now we are in Rio and we have a great preparation and I’m very confident in that. We opened the door for the facilities to be a temporary stadium, it will be fantastic.

“It will be a good capacity for us and a good capacity for the first test in an Olympic Games. The Rio organising committee work very well, I’m sure Deodoro will be a great region for the fans.

“I’m very pleased; I was in Rio two months ago and I met the guys and it’s been a very good achievement so far by the organising committee.”

A sticking point for the IRB though was the temporary venue itself, which is also due to host Modern Pentathlon in the second week of the Games.


Mark Egan (pictured above), the IRB’s head of competitions and performance, described how rugby’s governing body had not been accepting almost anything less than perfection in the home for their Games bow.

He said: “We got news last week that the redesign we requested that we’ve been working on for the last six months has been approved by the organising committee. We wanted to impress upon the organising committee that the atmosphere inside a rugby sevens venue is vital to the success of the event and we wanted a more enclosed venue and we had to change to orientation of the pitch to allow that to happen.

He added: “Even though they’re behind schedule, they are beginning to pick up on time and at the end of the day you can build a temporary venue in six months if you have to.

“So we’re not as concerned as maybe some other sports are but we have to keep the pressure on.”

Men and women will also compete in rugby sevens at the Tokyo 2020 Games which, coincidentally, follow on from the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.

Asked if he thought the sport could remain part of the Olympic family beyond 2020, Lapasset was hopeful but admitted it would take work.

“That’s the challenge, because as you know we are qualified for 2016 and 2020 in Japan but I’m sure that, after the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Thomas Bach was very surprised by the quality of the game played by the young players.

He added: “I think rugby sevens is a part of the tradition for the Olympic Games; it’s fantastic for the spirit of the Olympic Games. I’m sure we will be around for a long time.

“The Rugby World Cup in 2019 will be our test event for rugby sevens the next year at Tokyo2020! It’s a good opportunity for us to extend our game in Asia.”

USA the key target market, says Fitzpatrick

Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick (pictured below) was on the first panel of the day and spoke of the importance of the US market in garnering global interest in the sport.


Fitzpatrick, who won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, referred to the recent historic match between New Zealand and the USA in Chicago’s Soldier Field – the first Rugby match to take place at an NFL venue.

The game ended in a 74-6 thrashing of the hosts but Fitzpatrick believes the game was a milestone and should be built on.

“Now where do they go to from having 62,000 in the Bears stadium, probably 50,000 of them had never seen a game of rugby live before, and how do we capitalise on that window we had at NBC for two and a half hours of live rugby in the states on terrestrial TV?” He said. “It was phenomenal.”

“I definitely see areas like America as opportunities and as rugby people we need to grow the game. That’s one of the jobs I’m sure Bernard [Lapasset] has to grow it so we have not only, realistically, 10 teams who could potentially win the World Cup; we need to have 20 teams going to the World Cup that could potentially win it.”

Fitzpatrick also highlighted the debut of Rugby sevens at the Rio 2016 Olympics as a “great opportunity” and said that it was easier to promote the more simplified format of the game to new markets.

However he warned of rivalry from other emerging sports.

He said: “Now the NFL is coming to England, that’s a real competition for Rugby Union in terms of the people watching it. So we’ve got to keep on the ball, and the Olympics stage is a phenomenal stage to do that.”

Gosper admits biological passports a possibility

IRB chief executive Brett Gosper (pictured below) reiterated his desire to fight doping in rugby, and admitted that a number of counter measures and proposals were being discussed.


Biological passports are individual electronic records for professional athletes in which markers of results of doping tests are collated over a period of time. Doping violations can then be seen by detecting variances from an athlete’s established levels.

Sports such as cycling, athletics and now this year football have introduced biological passports – and Gosper admitted that was one measure being discussed by the IRB.

“We can always do more, and we will always endeavour to do more,” he said. “We are rigorous with our testing and it is widespread and we believe very effectively in the way we go about our testing.

“[Biological passports] These are all things being considered by our working group so no decisions been made yet. But we look at every way we can possibly catch out cheats in the process. We work very closely with WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] and so on, so these are all possibilities”.

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