Take the game to schools: Ryan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 March, 2010, 12:00am

It's not another brick in the wall, but Ben Ryan believes the best way forward for England as far as the Olympic factor is concerned would be to introduce the game into schools.

If Pink Floyd's classic protest song railed against rigid schooling, then Ryan's suggestion might strike a chord with the authorities, and will help England build a large reservoir of talent all hopeful of one day playing sevens in the Olympics.

'Sevens now has an opportunity to leave a real legacy in each country and for me it's starting in the schools system,' England sevens coach Ryan wrote in a guest column to the IRB.

'We should try to get a sevens programme there, particularly in the 90 per cent of the schools that are state schools and where rugby isn't the staple diet.

'If we can hit the state school market and tap some of these talents that are perhaps going to other sports and give them the Olympic opportunity in Sevens then we are going to be in big business,' Ryan said.

He said Olympic inclusion would have a huge impact on both forms of the games and believed the abbreviated version could become as important as the established 15s game.

'I think we are going to see an emergence of smaller nations concentrating on sevens as an Olympic sport with centralised funding from governments to do so. It will bring more people in at grassroots level,' Ryan said.

'The top nations will also pay more attention to it as well. An Olympic gold medal is an Olympic gold medal any which way you look at it. All countries will want to get hold of it. It is poised to change everything.'

Asked if winning the Olympic gold will be as big as winning the 15s World Cup, Ryan said: 'I think it is going to take some time and we will need to overcome a bit of inertia at the outset. 2016 will be the first one and I think people will see the Olympics being this huge event that comes outside the bubble of international rugby. In that environment, winning an Olympic gold medal will be huge.

'Some of the big countries will say that winning a World Cup is what matters, but they will realise the importance strategically, commercially and financially of winning a gold medal, and what it means. It will at least be level par with the 15s World Cup.'

England does not take part in its own entity at the Olympics. It is part of Britain. That is bound to continue at the Olympics in sevens.

'There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes at the moment but it will be Team Great Britain.

'It is very exciting and all early indications are that we have buy-in from all the home unions and that will be a fantastic opportunity to play under a single banner for Team GB in the Olympics,' Ryan said.

The RFU held a forum on Sevens to take stock of the huge strides the game has made, not only in getting into the Olympics but also over the past few years. And there is a lot of optimism in the air.

'I think there's a general feeling that we now need to plot the way forward for the game and I was very enthused by what we saw and heard at the forum,' Ryan said.

He called for a coherent pathway which will help the players move from youth and schools rugby right up to representing England at sevens and 15s.

'There's not a single country in the world that has a very straightforward pathway for Sevens and we'd like to be the first country to have a bomb-proof and understandable framework for how players go from school to international sevens.

'I don't think sevens will ever become a sport in its own right in England, at least I personally hope it doesn't, because I think sevens and 15s can work so well side by side,' he said. 'We see sevens as part of our elite pathway into the England senior side.'