Rob Vickerman: Jaw-dropping Fiji set to enchant as Sevens bursts onto Olympic scene in Rio

Team GB's women's rugby sevens team during a photo opportunity at Trafalgar Square, London. (Picture: John Walton/PA Wire)
Team GB's women's rugby sevens team during a photo opportunity at Trafalgar Square, London. (Picture: John Walton/PA Wire)
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Faster, higher, stronger – three words that will be featuring in most conversations around the county as Yorkshire folk no doubt cast their eyes over the sporting festivities throughout August and September.

The speed, power and strength showcased by the incredible athletes for Team GB will be enriched by some new friends, and ones that I believe will raise the bar of athleticism.

Former Yorkshire Carnegie player and England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman is a Yorkshire Post columnist from Rio.

Former Yorkshire Carnegie player and England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman is a Yorkshire Post columnist from Rio.

In August 2009 it was announced Rugby Sevens would be in the Olympics in Rio.

Fast forward seven years, through thousands of conversations about a new and significant pathway for rugby, and we are set to see how the world will react to rugby’s shorter version.

Team GB have a men’s and women’s team competing, and there is a good chance of a medal for both squads.

For the new viewers, think five-a-side football but with the physicality of rugby. A daunting concept of playing rugby with the same laws and pitch dimensions but with just seven players, yet one that has it all from an entertainment point of view.

Many may well have their own perceptions of what Sevens is, usually based on a throw around for the fast people after a year of clogged-up pitches and (too) many scrums and line-outs.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is now a global circuit and a professional game building some serious momentum around the world, which will only snowball further after the shop window of the Olympic Games.

What can we expect?

Sevens is gaining notoriety as an out-and-out entertainment package. It possesses all the elements of sport that people want to see; the drama, action, athletic ability and constant highlights; specifically pace, power and points! Throw in the fact that Fiji, Kenya and Japan are all in the top 12 teams and it further enhances the appeal.

Add to that further the romance of Fiji, in particular, who are hot favourites to win their first ever Olympic medal, and potentially a gold at that! Once the Pacific Islanders are seen in full flow, jaws will drop and imagination will be captured as they simply defy skill-sets, endurance and often physics, leaving people to marvel at their simplicity in one of the toughest team games around.

They are humble, thankful and spirited men off the pitch but on it fearless warriors, helped by their gigantic frames. Team GB have a chance of medalling in both men’s and women’s but significantly higher chance with the women. The women’s programme is now full-time after years of balancing their playing commitments around work, and they are coached by Castleford’s (and ex-Castleford Tigers, Yorkshire Carnegie player and coach) Simon Middleton.

They have played together for a number of years as a strong England Team and have brought in one Welsh player, Jasmine Joyce, to bolster their group.

For me, as a former England Sevens captain, who also played the 15-man game with Leeds/Yorkshire Carnegie and Newcastle, the Olympics in Rio is an exciting chapter for me.

I’ll be commentating in Rio for BBC5 Live throughout the women’s and men’s events which run from Saturday to Thursday, but more importantly also keeping track of Yorkshire’s own medal tally at the Games.

Updates and further insights will be available @robvickerman

Enjoy the Games.