Chasing Olympic Gold: Top 15s Rugby Stars Transition to Sevens

The addition of Sevens rugby to the Olympic program has sparked a trend of 15s stars switching codes in pursuit of glory on the biggest stage. In this feature, we examine the players navigating the transition, including French superstar Antoine Dupont, Irish fullback Hugo Keenan, and Wallabies legend Michael Hooper, as they chase their Olympic dreams.

BBC Rugby Union: Olympians Emerge from 15s Rugby Stars

The allure of Sevens rugby has dramatically increased since the sport’s addition to the Olympic program, tempting some of the world’s top 15s stars to chase the faster, shorter format’s promise of glory.

In this feature, we examine the players switching codes in pursuit of Olympic gold.

Antoine Dupont

The current rugby superstar, Dupont has seamlessly navigated between 15s and Sevens this season. He helped France secure their first Sevens circuit title in over two decades earlier this year before returning to the full format and leading Toulouse to a Champions Cup triumph last weekend. Remarkably, the influential Frenchman has now been named in his country’s Sevens squad for the series finale in Madrid, underlining his dual-code prowess. If Dupont can translate his dominant 15s form to the Olympic Sevens stage, it would be a remarkable achievement.

Hugo Keenan

The Irish fullback is making a full-circle move, returning to the Sevens setup in a bid to earn Olympic selection. Keenan spent two years with the national Sevens team before transitioning to the 15-a-side game, where he has emerged as one of the world’s premier fullbacks. His decision to switch back comes at the cost of missing Ireland’s upcoming Test series against South Africa, but his well-rounded skillset could make him a valuable asset on the Sevens circuit. The pace and intensity of the shorter format will be a significant adjustment, but Keenan’s fitness and conditioning work with Leinster may prove beneficial.

Michael Hooper

The most-capped Wallabies captain has been pursuing his Olympic dream for some time, announcing his intention to switch to Sevens last year after being omitted from the Rugby World Cup squad. Hooper’s debut was delayed as he was not deemed ready, but his breakdown expertise has since proved useful for Australia. However, his Olympic quest is now in jeopardy after he was left out of the final event due to an osteitis pubis injury. The iconic Wallaby faces a race against time to regain fitness in time for the Paris Olympics.

Andrew Smith

A Leinster academy product now contracted to Connacht, Smith is another making the transition to the Sevens format. He has already represented Ireland in Sevens, even winning gold at the European Games. Smith’s impressive ball-carrying ability, spatial awareness, and pace make him a natural fit for the demands of the shorter game, and he is pushing hard for an Olympic Sevens berth.

The lure of Olympic glory has undoubtedly captured the imagination of rugby’s elite, with several top 15s stars exploring the switch to the fast-paced Sevens format in pursuit of the ultimate prize.

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