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Bill Beaumont in sevens heaven as rugby prepares for Olympic return

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has described the sport's Olympics return in Rio as "a game-changer".

Six days of sevens action across women's and men's competitions kick off at the 15,000-capacity Deodoro Stadium on Saturday.

It is 92 years since rugby last featured in the Olympics, and former England captain Beaumont knows a glorious chance exists to seize the moment.

"The Olympic Games halo effect started the moment we were voted back onto the programme in 2009," Beaumont told reporters in Rio on Friday.

"Our national member unions have embraced the Olympic opportunity, and participation has doubled to 7.73 million, with dramatic growth in new and emerging rugby nations.

"In short, it has been a game-changer, enhancing our vision of a sport for all.

"This is the players' moment to shine, to enjoy and inspire.

"Their passion and commitment to reach the pinnacle of their discipline and proudly represent their nation and rugby on sport's biggest stage will be rewarded with what I fully anticipate being spectacular, game-changing Olympic rugby sevens events."

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, meanwhile, revealed there had been strong ticket sales for the Olympic sevens, which suggests there is little chance of a repeat of the sparse crowds in early football fixtures in Rio.

"We believe ticket sales are going well," Gosper said. "We are hoping for a full stadium across the programme.

"What's great about sevens rugby is the closer the fans are to the players, the better the atmosphere, and I don't think we have had a sevens stadium to date that is as close to the play.

"We are very confident the stadium will be full throughout the sessions across the six days.

"We believe that our sales have been well above the average of some of the other sports. We are confident of having that festival atmosphere that we are looking for.

"In terms of percentage of sales, we believe that we are around two-thirds in terms of sales, which is at a high clip."

South American rugby superstar Agustin Pichot, the current World Rugby vice-chairman, echoed Beaumont's sentiments about the enormity of rugby reappearing at the Olympics.

And he also paid tribute to the late Jonah Lomu, whose role was crucial during the campaign to have rugby restored at the Games.

"Yesterday, when I arrived, a lot of emotions came through," former Argentina captain Pichot said.

" I was thinking of Jonah first. He was a very close friend of mine, and I was thinking I would love to be with him here today and tomorrow at the Games.

"Rugby's a big family, and we've fought very hard to learn the process of the Olympic family.

"I made great friends with people I have watched on television, and then meeting IOC members, asking them and trying to persuade them to vote for rugby.

"The whole journey has been wonderful, and tomorrow it's going to be very special for a lot of us and a very special day for rugby worldwide.

"It's a game-changer. It's massive. It's the right moment.

"It's there in the top things in the evolution of rugby in the last 30 years, and while the challenges are big, we hope we can keep up with the pace."


From Belfast Telegraph