In four years time rugby returns to the biggest sporting event on the planet as it will be back in the Olympics for the first time in almost 100 years. Today we look back on the history of rugby at the Olympics, and forward to Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil will host the 2016 summer Olympics, which marks a return for the sport of rugby, albeit in the form of 7’s. It won’t be the first time rugby is included in the Games however, as 15’s was a regular occurence in the early years, with four of the first seven Olympic Games featuring rugby.
Who took part?
In 1900 there were only three countries; France, Germany, and Great Britain. Moseley Wanderers RFC from England represented the latter, while the Frankfurt Club represented Germany.
France won Gold, beating Great Britain 27-8 and beating Germany 27-18.
Eight years later in 1908 France and Great Britain (this time including Ireland) entered teams, while a third from Australasia took part, comprising mainly of a touring Wallaby side. France pulled out, so the only game was between the Australians and Great Britain, represented by Cornwall.
The Australian side won easily 32-3, but later were displeased with the turnout, stating that they had actually hoped to ‘conquer or be conquered by the best teams in the world’.
In 1920 there were only two teams again, the USA – comprised of a group of Californian students – and France. The USA won 8-0. One of the USA members, Charles Paddock, took home two other medals as he came second in the 100m dash and also won with the 4x100m relay.
The last time we were to see rugby in the Olympics was in 1924 in Paris, where hosts France, newcomers Romania, and defending champions the USA, all battled it out.
France were reportedly over confident after thrashing Romania, and were upset by the American side, who scored five tries to win 17-3. Back then, a try counted as 3 points.
Pierre De Coubertin, the driving force behind rugby’s inclusion and the founder of the International Olympic Committee, stepped down in 1925 which, along with so few teams showing interest, led to the exclusion of rugby in the Olympics.
There was however an exhibition tournament at the 1936 games in Berlin, which France won, making them the last winner of a rugby match at the Olympic Games.
There has been a strong drive to get rugby back for some time now, and thanks to IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset, IOC President Jacques Rogge (a former rugby player), and many other factors all coming together, rugby received a yes vote on 9 October 2009.
It will appear in the 2016 games in Rio, following a similar format to how the IRB Sevens World Series is run, with both men and women taking part in seperate competitions.
The next Games may feel like a long way away, but we have a very exciting few years ahead.
The video below, from the IRB, looks forward to rugby returning for the 2016 Olympics