EXCLUSIVE - IRB: Home unions back Olympic Sevens
RUGBY will not face the same problems that have plagued the involvement of a British football team at London 2012, should Sevens earn its Olympic Games place later this year.
DIFFICULT JOB: IRB chief executive Mike Miller is leading rugby's bid to be included at the 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)
Rugby is battling it out with baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, softball and squash for two vacant sports slots at the 2016 Olympics.
And IRB chief executive Mike Miller insists the campaign has the full backing of all the game's major stakeholders.
However, national press agency Sportsbeat has learned some major question marks remain.
Some club owners are unhappy about changes to the IRB's regulation nine - which deals with player release. Under newly-revised rules, selected players must be released for both the Games and its qualifying tournaments.
In addition, the formation of a British team - which has been causing much debate within football - has not been finalised.
In particular, Miller admits there has been no decision as to how Irish players might be represented.
Normally a united team, there may be a split with players available for both the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, under the control of the British Olympic Association, and the Republic of Ireland, represented by the Olympic Council of Ireland.
Miller also admitted he was ensure how a British team would qualify - with home unions reticent to give up their individual slots on the IRB's increasingly lucrative Sevens circuit.
Qualifying is also expected to be tough - with the IOC insisting only 12 men's and women's team be allowed to compete, as opposed to the 16 suggested by the IRB.
"There is no point, at this stage, dealing with issues that require negotiation. If we get in we won't be in the Games until 2016, so we have a long-time to sort out the details," said Miller, in an exclusive interview, also published in The Rugby Paper.
"However, unlike football, there is already a tradition of a Great British team in rugby union.
"The situation with Ireland also hasn't been discussed, if we get into the Olympics, it will be but it's a nice problem to have.
"The revision of regulation nine went through with the unanimous backing of all the stakeholders in the game, including clubs, players and unions.
"As for other tours and tournaments, there shouldn't be an issue with scheduling.
"But if it makes sense, once every four years, to move something around to accommodate the Games, I wouldn't see a problem but I don't necessarily see the need to do that."
Miller insists feedback from the IOC's notoriously fickle members has been positive, with lobbying continuing at this weekend's World Cup Sevens in Dubai.
However, while rivals are drafting in their sport's big guns - Jack Nicklaus is expected to speak on golf's behalf at October's IOC Congress in Copenhagen - Miller is keeping it simple.
"It's good to have star power on your side but it's better to have star arguments in your favour and star reasons for why you'd be a good part of the programme," he added.
"The IOC have been very impressed with the commitment of our top athletes and the way the sport has developed.
"Sevens fits in well with what they are looking for in terms of modernising their programme. It appeals to a young demographic and families, it works well for television and we have a good raft of commercial sponsors.
"If you go to the IRB Sevens tournaments you'll find a party atmosphere, as well as a top-class sporting event and that is something the IOC is trying to create.
"If you put together a comprehensive Sevens programme you can also become competitive with the more experienced rugby nations very quickly. It gives nations that don't win usually medals at the Olympics the chance to get on the podium."
INFLUENTIAL: IOC President Jacques Rogge played international rugby for Belgium and is a big fan of the game (Getty Images)
IOC President Jacques Rogge is known to be a fan of the sport and represented Belgium internationally but Miller is quick to play down any advantage in rugby's favour.
"I don't think Jacques's past in the sport makes any difference one way or the other," he added.
"No-one will be swayed by their own particular likes or dislikes, they will make a decision based on the best interests of the Olympic programme.
"Jacques has his own personal views but the decision will be made on what makes sense for the Olympic movement."
Squash - with its broad international appeal and powerful backers in Asia - is expected to be favourite for one of the places, which appeared after baseball and softball were dropped from the London 2012 programme.
And some IOC members have expressed private concern that the inclusion of Sevens would not necessarily mean the inclusion of the sport's big names.
"Talking to the top players you realise how much they want to be involved," added Miller.
"I can imagine the tensions between the specialist Sevens players and the top 15-man players, who'd want to be selected. I wouldn't want to be the coach who had to choose between them.
"Each country would have to decide on the best team to win a medal. I think you'll find a mix of sevens specialists and established stars from the 15-man code.
"It's probably true that some 15 stars aren't as suited to the Sevens games as they would have been in the past.
"The Olympics will also create new stars by exposure."
Rugby has appeared in four Olympic Games with the USA winning the last gold medal in 1924 failed.
It attempted to earn a place on 2012 programme in 2005 but struggled to win the acceptance of the two-thirds of IOC members it required.
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