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Rugby in sevens heaven after scintillating Olympics debut in Rio

Published 22/08/2016

Great Britain finished second in the rugby sevens
Great Britain finished second in the rugby sevens

Rugby sevens made a scintillating Olympics debut in Rio - and Great Britain more than played its part.

No-one could seriously doubt the overall supremacy of the champions - men's winners Fiji and women's gold medallists Australia - but the standard also proved world-class.

Rugby is already confirmed to be on the Tokyo 2020 schedule, with a decision due next year on whether or not it continues as an Olympic sport beyond that.

Given its soaraway Rio success story, the decision should be an easy one for International Olympic Committee chiefs to make.

Britain took silver in the men's competition, which represented an impressive achievement for Tom Mitchell's team, who arrived in Brazil tipped by many as medal outsiders.

But they shone throughout, showcasing the talents of players like James Davies, Dan Norton and Dan Bibby, even if the final proved a game too far as Fiji put them to the sword.

"It's not the first time I have been on the wrong side of a result like that against Fiji," Mitchell said. "When those guys are on fire, it's very difficult to combat.

"They are an unbelievably-talented group of guys, and the scary thing is, for the world of sevens, there are a few more back home probably waiting to fill these guys' boots."

Britain beat New Zealand in the pool stages - the Kiwis never really recovered from losing injured star player Sonny Bill Williams early in the tournament - and remained unbeaten until Fiji, inspired by their English coach Ben Ryan, romped to gold.

Elsewhere, Japan provided arguably the biggest shock in sevens history by beating New Zealand, while crowds flocked to Deodoro Stadium throughout the six days of men's and women's competitions, creating a carnival atmosphere.

Britain's women, led by 2014 England World Cup star Emily Scarratt, missed out on a medal when Canada toppled them in the bronze medal match but, like the men, they could also take considerable satisfaction from the way they performed.

So it is all systems go for Japan in four years' time, with the Olympics coming just a year after that country stages the Rugby World Cup.

But rugby in Rio belonged to Fiji, whose status was best summed up by Ryan, in his final tournament in charge before he heads back to Britain.

"The boys are front page news, back page news, six o'clock news," Ryan said.

"You come out of the airport in Fiji, and there is a 20-foot billboard of them. They are superstars in Fiji, and I can have an hour's drive to work and I will see villages all playing one-touch rugby.

"It's the nation's team, and the party will have been across the entire nation - all 335 islands."

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