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Lomu lends his weight to rugby sevens Olympic bid

NEW Zealand legend Jonah Lomu is in Copenhagen to lend his considerable weight to the International Rugby Board's final push for sevens' inclusion in the Olympic Games.

Lomu and Cheryl Soon, who captained Australia's women to the Rugby World Cup Sevens title earlier this year, will take part in the IRB's presentation to the International Olympic Committee on Friday morning.

Rugby sevens and golf were both recommended for inclusion in the programme for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro by the IOC's executive board on 13 August.

Both sports now face separate votes by the full 106-member IOC council with a straight majority required for the inclusion in the Olympics. The result will be announced on Friday afternoon.

"It would be fantastic for rugby and fantastic for the Games," said Lomu, who won a Sevens gold medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

"Playing in the Commonwealth Games was a major highlight of my career and it gave me a taste of what it must be like as part of the Olympic family competing on the world's greatest sporting stage.

"I was captivated and I just wish I could have competed for an Olympic gold medal. Sevens certainly has all the right ingredients. It is explosive, exciting, unpredictable and due to its highly competitive nature, it gives the opportunity for smaller rugby nations to win a medal."

Sevens' broad appeal is a major part of the IRB's campaign, with the likes of Fiji, Samoa, Argentina and Kenya all capable of winning medals. IRB delegates are excited by the carnival atmosphere rugby could create in Rio and they are working hard to convey that message this week.

Lomu and Soon will join Prince Joachim of Denmark, patron of the Danish Rugby Union, at a children's coaching clinic being held at Speed, the country's oldest rugby club.

The IRB has already confirmed that the Olympics would replace the World Cup as the pinnacle event in rugby sevens, if they are voted on to the programme this week.

Lomu is confident the world's leading Test players – and not just sevens specialists – would be anxious to compete in the tournament. If the event were held this year, that list could include the likes of Australia's Matt Giteau, New Zealand's Dan Carter and South Africa's Bryan Habana.

"The Olympics is the pinnacle. It would inspire, it would create dreams and shape ambitions," said Lomu. "Rugby Sevens would have the platform to reach out to new audiences around the world. It would be amazing.

"Sevens launched my career and I would not have been the player or person that I am without it. The top players would come and play in an Olympic Games and would be proud to be Olympians. I have no doubt about that. We are all in sport to be the best and the Olympic Games is the world's biggest sporting stage."

England manager Martin Johnson has confirmed the Rugby Football Union would make available any player selected for a Great Britain Olympic Games.

Rugby has been played at four previous Olympic Games, the last of them in 1924 when the United States won the gold medal.

The IOC executive board recommended rugby sevens and golf ahead of squash, karate, roller sports, baseball and softball at their Berlin meeting on 13 August.

Golf will present their case first on Friday morning with the IRB to follow before a vote is taken on whether to introduce one, both or neither of the sports to the Rio 2016 schedule.

 
 
 

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