Rugby sevens, battling to become a medal sport at the 2012 Olympics, got a boost from an unlikely source - the American public, who voted it the sport they most preferred to be added to the games roster. A recent poll undertaken by American publication Sports Illustrated saw rugby receive the biggest backing from fans who voted on the popularity of the five sports shortlisted by the International Olympic Committee for possible entry into the summer games in 2012. Asked what sport should be added to the Olympics, those polled backed rugby to the tune of 38 per cent. Golf came second with 29 per cent, followed by karate (22 per cent), squash (six per cent) and roller sports (five per cent). The poll has been welcomed by rugby bosses in Dublin, who see it as a vindication of the universal popularity of the seven-a-side version and an unequivocal answer to the criticism of IOC member Denis Oswald, who recently claimed rugby sevens was a 'joke''. 'The fact that rugby topped the poll with 38 per cent of the vote undoubtedly highlights the international appeal of the sport. The clear message from the US, which is not a traditional stronghold of rugby, is that rugby should be back in the Olympic programme in 2012,' said International Rugby Board chief executive Mike Miller. Rugby - 15-a-side - was last played in the Olympics in 1924 when the United States won the gold medal. But the IRB wants sevens to be the game now, as it will level the playing field somewhat with smaller countries also having a genuine chance of winning a medal. IOC executive board member Oswald caused a storm last week when he dismissed sevens as 'something of a joke'. The Canadian, who is president of the International Rowing Federation and also holds the powerful post of president of the Associations of Summer Olympic International Federations, is totally against introducing new sports into the games. But the American poll will be an eye-opener for Oswald and his ilk and prove that there is a groundswell of support for rugby and golf. The poll, which also asked 'which sports should be removed from the Olympics', showed the US public was unhappy with disciplines like synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. Synchronised swimming got the thumbs down with 32 per cent voting for it to be removed, while rhythmic gymnastics received 29 per cent. Baseball, surprisingly, was third on the list with 23 per cent followed by modern pentathlon and taekwondo (eight per cent each). However, synchronised swimming (part of aquatics) and rhythmic gymnastics (gymnastics) are safe as the IOC members will be asked to vote on July 8 in Singapore on all 28 sports currently in the summer programme and not on individual disciplines. Each sport will have to get a clear majority if it is to remain in the Olympics. If, say, two sports fail to achieve this, then the IOC members will vote on which of the five new sports should be brought in to fill the vacancies. The IRB is hopeful that rugby's good showing in this unofficial poll is an indication of its popularity worldwide.