It’s not just a win at the Olympics, or for gender equity. The women’s sevens team claims a mantle for their sport.
Wallaby and Waratah half Nick Phipps has been involved in quite a few proud moments in recent years. He’d been part of a Super Rugby champion side, as well as a World Cup runner-up. But when Inside Sport interviewed him in the lead-up to the Olympics, one moment stood out.
We talked with Phipps about his experience in sevens, a format he had played before moving up to bigger roles at the provincial and international level. After he mentioned how excited he was for the Games, he casually said: “The women’s sevens are the best team in Australian rugby at the moment.”
On the face of it, it was a simple statement of fact, one competitor acknowledging the achievement of another. The Australian women’s sevens team, known as the Pearls, had established themselves as a solid favourite in Rio.
But in another sense, Phipps’ hat tip says so much more. The potential of Olympic sevens to change the perception of rugby is well-understood, and never more so when considering the place of women in the sport. After the result against New Zealand this morning in the gold medal game, the Pearls’ status as the best team in Australian rugby is ground-breaking, yet at the same time uncontroversial.
And if it motivates Phipps and company against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup contests to come, all the better.