Brian O’Driscoll: Sevens rugby has the potential to be as big as the 15s game is now
Brian O’Driscoll insists Olympic fever can eventually catapult Rugby Sevens onto a par with the 15-man game
The 37-year-old thinks a shorter format would attract different viewers from adopting a ‘Big Bash’ style
The three-time Heineken Cup winner O’Driscoll has also backed Wales coach Warren Gatland to lead the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand
Former and British and Irish Lions captain O’Driscoll has tipped Sevens to one day sit alongside rugby’s traditional format, and on an equal footing to boot.
Sevens will make its Olympic debut in the ‘s Rio Games, and a new report highlighting rugby’s future predicts rapid growth for the sport’s short format incarnation in the next 10 years.
O’Driscoll, who is an ambassador for the Hong Kong Sevens, now is hoping rugby will follow the example of cricket and introduce a similar competition to increase awareness.
The 37-year-old thinks a shorter format would attract different viewers and a ‘Big Bash’ style would help to promote the sport further.
The average attendance in the 2016 BBL climbed to 28,346, a 22% increase on last season, with more than 1 million people watching each game on television.
“Rugby Sevens requires fewer players and fewer resources, so it opens the game up to whole new audiences,” he wrote in the Huffington Post.
“The HSBC #futureofrugby report uses the example of The ‘Big Bash’ in Australia as how new formats can really energise a sport. I think it’s absolutely possible that the same could happen to rugby.”
World Rugby have been trying to break away from the dominant nations of the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and their decision to hand Japan the 2019 World Cup shows this.
25m people, a fifth of Japan’s entire population, watched the Brave Blossoms’ match against Samoa following their incredible 34-32 win South Africa in the opening weekend of the tournament, and O’Driscoll says the sport can grow even further in non-rugby countries by promoting the sevens game.
Global governing body World Rugby rates rugby union’s current worldwide participation figures at 7.2million. This new report projects that figure climbing to 15million by 2026.
Three-time Heineken Cup winner O’Driscoll has also backed Wales coach Warren Gatland to lead the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand, ahead of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.
Gatland, 52, controversially dropped O’Driscoll from the 2013 Lions’ third Test against Australia, a match the Lions went on to win to secure the series.
“You have to think it’s between Gats [Warren Gatland] and Joe Schmidt and I think having been under Gats in 2013 – and he was a coach in 2009 as well – his style is probably something that lends itself to the short lead-in time.”