Rugby sevens ideal to spread popularity of game - Bill Beaumont

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont shows his approval at the rugby sevens in Rio
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont shows his approval at the rugby sevens in Rio

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont believes the successful introduction of the sevens format in the recently concluded Rio Olympics will play an important role in spreading the popularity of the game worldwide.

The Rio Olympics 2016 featured rugby for the first time in 92 years while the sevens format was a part of the mega event for the first time and World Rugby announced that the tournament attracted 17 million new fans in six core markets.

"The Olympic tournament was a phenomenal success and we are already seeing the results at grass-roots," said Beaumont to Press Association Sport at World Rugby's annual conference in London.

"The key now is to build on the increased interest in our sport and we'll be spending 20% more on developing the game in the next four-year cycle - sevens will be a massive part of that.

"Sevens can be a great introduction to 15-a-side rugby, and fifteens can be a great way into sevens, but we know sevens is the ideal vehicle to grow the game."

The International Olympics Committee will take a decision next September on whether to include rugby sevens as a part of their core programme. Recently, Beaumont on his visit to Japan to discuss the proceedings of 2019 Rugby World Cup in the country also met the IOC staffs and is confident of the sport becoming a permanent fixture of Olympics from 2024 onwards.

"We are not presumptuous about our place in the schedule at all but I think we delivered a great event in Rio," the 64-year-old Englishman said.

"Whenever I met an IOC member in a hotel restaurant or lift during the first week in Rio they would quickly look down at my accreditation to see who I was and usually say nothing. But after Fiji won, well, everybody wanted to congratulate me on the amazing tournament."

The Rio Olympics 2016 saw Fiji claim their maiden gold medal in the men's category of the tournament while Australia won the women's edition.