While rugby sevens, may seem to some like a glorified drinking festival, chock a block with students and party-goers more interested in their choice of fancy dress attire than the action taking place on the field, its' admission into the Olympic arena has at least changed the way the rest of the world looks at the sport.
Asia, Russia and the Americas are taking a fresh look at Sevens now that a glint of Olympic gold is discernible. Major economies such as India and Brazil have also publicly stated their intention to improve their national rugby programmes, in order to achieve future competitiveness in the sport.
While Sevens won't be showcased in the Olympics until Rio 2016 (it was only admitted by the IOC in 2011), promoters hope the shortened version will have the same impact on the sport as the popular Twenty20 format had on cricket.
The spectator friendly nature of Sevens seems to suggest that the likelihood of this is high, so who is to say that Sevens rather than 15s won't churn out rugby's first truly global superstar? Could a Julian Savea for example be as recognisable as Lebron James, Lionel Messi, Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt in four years time?
Cross-over athletes lured by medal hopes
Many in the know certainly believe that Sevens could ignite the public interest. Chief executive of USA rugby, Nigel Melville, also believes that the proposition of Olympic glory could lure the current generation of American athletes, not able to make it in their first chosen sport, into pinning their hopes on Rugby Sevens as an alternative. These high-calibre 'cross-over' athletes, it is hoped, could make a significant impact on the American game.
The group of athletes targeted by USA rugby aren't ones you would predict though. Although, rugby has often been compared with American football, Melville believes that those familiar with the 'pigskin' would not have the 'aerobic capacity' needed to succeed in sevens. Among non-rugby athletes though, 'there's a lot of potential' and 'being part of USOC is a huge step forward'.
|Could USA be future contenders for Sevens medals?|
Perhaps an indication of the types of athletes who could fare well in rugby can be seen in this year's Super 15 though....
Cadeyrn Neville, 23, impressed Wallabies selectors with his form for the Rebels in 2012. Although he is not strictly a young starlet, his rise to the top has been meteoric. Neville actually took to rugby union late having formerly enjoyed a representative rowing career with the Australian Institute of Sport.
He enjoyed the extremes of success and failure as he contested in competitions such as the Youth Olympics and the Youth World Cup as an Australian rower. Ultimately though, he dropped the oars in favour of a rugby ball.
While his talent with the oars may not have directly helped his transition from rowing to the rugby field, his ability as an athlete, where key attributes are shared (such as power and stamina) certainly did.
So clearly rowers for one, are just one group of Olympic sportsmen who have the possibility of making the transition.
|Cadeyrn Neville of the Melbourne Rebels is a successful sporting convert|
Of course luring cross-over athletes is not the only solution to improving the competitiveness of teams less entrenched in rugby history...
Ultimately the Olympic games need to show off the best of the sport to encourage the best young athletes to take up rugby, rather than football, tennis, basketball or any other sport which has a stronghold on the world's population.
USA Rugby chief executive, Nigel Melville, certainly thinks it is possible to do so.
"If you're looking to sell rugby to an audience in America, sevens is the easiest way to do it. It's a very simple form of the game, there's lots of scoring, it's short. It's a great way to introduce people to the game and we've now got over half a million American kids playing rugby. Now we've also got a little bit of money coming into it we've got a chance."
What do you think of Sevens admission into the Olympics arena?
Do you agree with the optimism of Nigel Melville?