Laureus World Sports Academy Member and Irish rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll predicts that next the current Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro can provide the spark that will see rugby take off in China and the United States.
“Sevens is a very attractive game. The fact it’s an Olympic sport now heightens it all the more,” said O’Driscoll in an exclusive interview with Laureus.com.
“It has the potential to get into countries that aren’t really synonymous with rugby, particularly China and the United States. If it’s big in the Olympics, you know it’s going to be big in those countries. I think there is huge scope for how big the Sevens game can get.
“It is also great that a country like Spain is going to get into the Olympics and straight away more people in Spain will get to know rugby,” he added.
O’Driscoll appeared 133 times for Ireland and eight times for the British and Irish Lions. He was captain of Ireland from 2003 until 2012 and also captained the Lions on their 2005 tour of New Zealand.
He says he would have ‘absolutely loved’ to have played in the Olympics, though he added: “It’s phenomenal knowing the workload that’s involved, so it would have needed to be a very, very young Brian O’Driscoll to have been involved in an Olympics.”
He also feels the Sevens game is no threat to the traditional Fifteens game. “I think they can feed each other. I think you’ve seen in years gone by that Sevens players essentially wanted to become Fifteens. But now you’re seeing it going the other way knowing that there’s an Olympic medal on offer. Big players like Sonny Bill Williams are all trying to have a go at Sevens.”
Earlier this year, Brian O’Driscoll became a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, an elite group of 60 sporting legends, who support the work of Laureus Sport for Good in helping to improve the lives of millions of young people, through the use of sport in underprivileged areas.
O’Driscoll said: “I’m delighted. I was looking at being able to give something back. I understand the power of what sport has to offer, particularly to young people. I think it breaks down the divide between the wealthy, the poor, the disadvantaged. It’s a real equalizer. It’s a way of forming bonds and friendships with people you don’t know, having a great bit of fun and building self-confidence in people that are in need of being pushed in the right direction.
“I think the quality and the power of sport is very, very powerful. If my help in promoting rugby, or maybe another sport, in a disadvantaged area of the world, helps younger people to develop into more confident people that keeps them out of trouble and allow them to enjoy their lives a little bit more, even changing one person’s mindset, would be a huge bonus to me.”