Sevens rugby is being taken more seriously by the International Rugby Board (IRB) after moves to have it included as an Olympic sport in 2004. According to Peter Duncan, chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, the IRB will make representations towards the International Olympic Committee to get rugby union back on the Olympic programme. 'There is a strong move that sevens be the Olympic rugby game. It is a big boost for our Hong Kong Sevens as we are primarily seen as the union which has developed and promoted this version,' said Duncan yesterday. Duncan, who attended this weekend's IRB meeting in Rome, said the move to make sevens an Olympic sport showed that rugby was serious about the abbreviated game. 'Only about 20 per cent of the 80-odd member unions of the IRB play 15-a-side rugby. But everyone plays sevens . . . and the Hong Kong Sevens is widely regarded as the major event. In the future it could be the stepping-stone for the Olympics,' said Duncan. 'The lesser unions regard sevens rugby as a key part of their development. The traditional rugby countries have been less enamoured with the game, but it seems that the hierarchy have at last accepted that it is the way forward.' Vernon Pugh, chairman of the IRB, said talks were already in progress about including rugby union on the Olympic schedule after it just missed out on the next Games in Sydney. 'We thought it might have been possible for the Sydney Olympics but that has passed us by; but I would expect it in 2004 . . . if we wish to see rugby in the Olympics,' said Pugh. Cape Town are strong contenders to host the 2004 Olympics. Rugby was last on the programme at the 1924 Games in Paris, when the United States beat France. Sevens rugby will also be played at the next Commonwealth Games, in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Once rugby is accepted as an Olympic sport, it will also boost significantly the development of the game in China, with state patronage available. The Chinese are expected to form a national union soon and then apply for IRB membership.