Rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics

Rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics was played for the first time at the 2016 Summer Olympics with both men's and women's contests. Rugby sevens was added to the Olympics following the decision of the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen in October 2009. The champions for the inaugural rugby sevens tournament in 2016 were Fiji for the men and Australia for the women. Prior to 2016, 15-a-side matches were played in 1900, 1908, 1920, and 1924.

Rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics
Governing bodyWR
Events2 (men: 1; women: 1)
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Efforts to include rugby sevens in the Olympics

1932 bid

A Scottish man based in Canada, Mr. W. Hastie Cochrane, was unsuccessful in his bid to get rugby sevens into the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The reason given was that two exhibition sports were already picked: American Football and Lacrosse.[1]

2012 bid

Rugby sevens was one of five sports — golf, karate, roller sports, rugby, and squash — that submitted a proposal to the IOC at the 117th IOC Session meeting in Singapore in 2005 for inclusion in the 2012 games.[2] The IOC stated that no sport would be added unless others were dropped.[3] However, the selection of two sports out of the five nominees as potential 2012 sports went to squash and karate, as determined by a voting procedure.[4]

2016 bid

Most recently, rugby sevens competed with golf for two available spaces in the 2016 Olympics. The final decision was made at the IOC Session in Copenhagen in October 2009: the IRB used a number of high-profile people and events to influence the IOC to include sevens at the 2016 games. In March 2009, two senior delegates from the IOC attended the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai at the invitation of the IRB.

The event attracted 78,000 fans over the three days and saw Wales crowned Men’s World Champions, while Australia won the first ever Women's World Cup.

Along with the World Cup, the IRB enlisted some of rugby’s biggest names to assist in the bid. In March 2009, Jonah Lomu and Lawrence Dallaglio were announced as ambassadors for the bid, and in April 2009 Waisale Serevi was unveiled as an ambassador to coincide with the Oceania National Olympic Committees' general assembly.[5] May 2009 saw the IRB announce that they would drop the Rugby World Cup Sevens in order to improve the chances of the sport being included: the benefit of this move would be to make the Olympics the premier event in international rugby sevens.

As well as rugby sevens, baseball and softball (which were dropped from the Olympic programme in 2005), karate, squash, golf and roller sports (inline speed skating) were all seeking to be included in the 2016 Games and leaders of the seven sports made formal presentations to the IOC executive board in June 2009.[6] A new system was in place from this session, in which a sport now needs only a simple majority for inclusion, rather than the previous two-thirds majority.[7]

On 13 August 2009, it was announced that the IOC executive board was recommending rugby sevens for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games[7] and on 9 October 2009 the full IOC, at its 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen, voted to include rugby sevens in the 2016 games.

Separate competitions for men and women will be held, using a similar format to the existing IRB Sevens World Series.

The IRB had originally proposed including 12 teams of each sex, the same number as other team ball sports events. During the IRB's presentation at the IOC Session, two IOC members asked why only 12 teams were included: IRB Chief Executive Mike Miller responded "We followed the guidance of the Executive Members of the IOC, but if the IOC feels we should have more teams, we will add more."[8]


Twelve rugby teams participate in the men’s and women’s competitions, qualifying through one of the four following routes:

  • The host country automatically qualifies.
  • Four teams qualify by finishing in the top four in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
  • Six teams qualify by finishing first in their respective continental championships — Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia, South America, and North America.
  • The last qualifying place goes to the team that wins an inter-continental competition.

Competition format

Both the men’s and women’s competition consist of two parts: pool play followed by a knockout round.

For pool play, the twelve teams are divided into three pools of four teams each. Each team plays the other three teams in the pool once.

At the end of pool play, the eight best teams — the top two from each group plus the two best third-place finishers — qualify for the quarterfinals, while the other four teams move to a consolation bracket.

The knockout rounds proceed through the quarterfinals, semifinals, and the final. The winner of the final wins the gold medal, and the defeated finalist wins silver, while the two defeated semifinalists play a third-place playoff to determine who wins the bronze medal.



Huriana Manuel (left) of New Zealand and Kelly Griffin (right) of United States.

Though rugby had not been featured in the Olympics since the 1924 Summer Olympics in any form, the IOC chose to introduce the seven-a-side version of the sport to the games.[9] The sport featured for this olympics and the following 2020 Summer Olympics.

The rugby competition took place in a temporary arena at Deodoro Stadium. The original plan was to stage the rugby matches at the São Januário Stadium. However this was scrapped because the club in charge of the venue missed the deadline to present its project. The Organising Committee considered Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, which would have had to have been shared with the athletics competitions.[10] It was later announced that the rugby competition will take place in a temporary arena at Deodoro Stadium, shared with the modern pentathlon. In April 2016 concerns were raised by the World Rugby head of competitions and performance, Mark Egan, about progress of construction at the temporary 15,000-seater stadium.[11]

The competition ran from the August 6–11, taking a maximum six days.[12] In the Men's tournament, pool A consisted of Fiji, Argentina, USA and Brazil. Pool B included South Africa, Australia, France and Spain while pool C consisted of New Zealand, Great Britain, Kenya and Japan.[13] In the Women's tournament pool A consisted of Australia, USA, Fiji and Colombia. Pool B included New Zealand, France, Spain and Kenya while pool C consisted of Canada, Great Britain, Brazil and Japan.

The women's saw Australia beating New Zealand 24–17 in the first final of women's rugby union at the Olympic Games. New Zealand took the early lead but Australia fought back and looked the most dangerous team throughout. The New Zealand defence was brutal early. Australia had the ball for the first two minutes but there was just no way through. New Zealand eventually found a way through after five minutes through Kayla McAlister. Australia almost struck back two minutes later but brutal one-on-one New Zealand defence prevented the try. Finally Australia scored in the corner. The ball looked to be grassed early and then bobble over the line without Australian player Emma Tonegato being in control. But the five points went onto the scoreboard. They went on and scored again right on halftime through Evania Pelite. Australia made an awful start to the second half, kicking the ball out on the full. But they soon recovered with tries to Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick.

In the men's tournament, Fiji secured their first Olympic medal with emphatic 43–7 win over Great Britain, as South Africa won bronze with big win over Japan. Having never previously won an Olympic medal of any colour, Fiji won gold at the Deodoro Stadium by demolishing Britain in the final. The opening minute saw Osea Kolinisau left one and one with Tom Mitchell and although his fellow captain halted his progress, Kolinisau was still able to stretch and touch the ball down behind his head. Almost straight away, Fiji had a second try. Samisoni Viriviri muscled his way past two players before offloading to Jerry Tuwai to score under the posts. After that Britain were shell shocked and Fiji racked up a further five tries.

Men's summaries

Year Host Final Bronze medal match
Gold medal Score Silver medal Bronze medal Score Fourth place

Great Britain

South Africa

New Zealand

Great Britain

Women's summaries

Year Host Final Bronze medal match
Gold medal Score Silver medal Bronze medal Score Fourth place

New Zealand

Great Britain

New Zealand

Great Britain

Medal table

Accurate as of the conclusion of the 2020 Olympics.

1 Fiji (FIJ)2013
2 New Zealand (NZL)1203
3 Australia (AUS)1001
4 France (FRA)0101
 Great Britain (GBR)0101
6 Argentina (ARG)0011
 Canada (CAN)0011
 South Africa (RSA)0011
Totals (8 nations)44412

Men's participating nations

 Australia (AUS)                           8th7th2
 Argentina (ARG)                           6th2
 Brazil (BRA)                           12th1
 Canada (CAN)                           8th1
 Fiji (FIJ)                           2
 France (FRA)                           7th1
 Great Britain (GBR)                           4th2
 Japan (JPN)                           4th11th2
 Kenya (KEN)                           11th9th2
 New Zealand (NZL)                           5th2
 South Africa (RSA)                           5th2
 South Korea (KOR)                           12th1
 Spain (ESP)                           10th1
 United States (USA)                           9th6th2
 Ireland (IRL)                           10th1
Nations                           121214
Athletes                           144144

Women's participating nations

 Australia (AUS)                           5th2
 Brazil (BRA)                           9th11th2
 Canada (CAN)                           9th2
 China (CHN)                           7th1
 Colombia (COL)                           12th1
 Fiji (FIJ)                           8th2
 France (FRA)                           6th1
 Japan (JPN)                           10th12th2
 Great Britain (GBR)                           4th4th2
 Kenya (KEN)                           11th10th2
 New Zealand (NZL)                           2
 Russia (RUS)                           8th2
 Spain (ESP)                           7th1
 United States (USA)                           5th6th2
Nations                           1212
Athletes                           144144

See also


  2. "Emirates Supports IRB Rugby Sevens 2012 Olympic Bid". Archived from the original on 2006-03-06. Retrieved 9 May 2006.
  3. "Five up for Games inclusion". BBC. 22 November 2004. Archived from the original on 2007-02-03. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  4. "Singapore 2005: 2012 Olympic Sport Vote". Archived from the original on 2006-05-16. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  5. "Serevi joins the stars clamoring for Sevens' Olympic inclusion". Archived from the original on 2009-06-09. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  6. "Golf among seven sports seeking inclusion in 2016 Games". ESPN. 25 April 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-02-22. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  7. Wilson, Stephen (13 August 2009). "Golf, rugby backed by IOC board for 2016 Games". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  8. Caravelli, Al (23 October 2009). "Al Caravelli: "I can't stop smiling"". International Rugby Board. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  9. "Rugby". Rio 2016. Archived from the original on 1 August 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  10. "Rio organizers forced to change 2016 rugby venue". 1 November 2012. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  11. Morgan, Liam (19 April 2016). "Rio 2016 sevens preparations "not exactly where we want to be", claims World Rugby official". Inside the Games. Archived from the original on 2016-04-22. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  12. "Daily Competition Schedule" (PDF). Rio 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  13. "Olympic sevens rugby: Great Britain face World Cup winners New Zealand". Archived from the original on 2016-07-02. Retrieved 28 June 2016.