By Duncan Mackay

Stephen_Ferris_v_France_February_13_2011April 14 - There will be no players from Northern Ireland in Britain's rugby sevens team when the sport makes its debut in the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 after the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) decided that players like Ulster's Stephen Ferris (pictured) would not be eligible to represent anyone other Ireland.

The IRFU are the governing body for rugby union in the whole of Ireland, including the North, and Ireland competes as a united team in events like the World Cup and the Six Nations.

IRFU officials are determined that Britain will not be allowed to cherry-pick players from Ulster to strengthen their team at Rio.

Five players from Ulster were part of Ireland's squad for this Six Nations Championships.

"The understanding in relation to Team GB at the moment is that players will be selected for Team GB from the unions within their jurisdiction, which means players from Scotland, England and Wales will be representing GB," Eddie Wigglesworth, the IRFU director of rugby, told the Irish Times.

"Players who play within the IRFU jurisdiction fall within the Irish Rugby Union.

"We do that with the agreement of the other unions.

"We are not resisting anything

"We are just saying that is the de facto position.

"It's not a question of flexibility or any thing like that.

"That's the understanding."

The IRFU's policy is unlikely to change even if Ireland fails to qualify for Rio, Wigglesworth has warned.

Unlike England, Scotland and Wales, Ireland do not currently play in the International Rugby Board's HSBC World Sevens Series and could face an uphill challenge to make it to Rio.

"That hasn't been discussed by the union," said Wigglesworth when asked if the policy would be softened to allow players from Northern Ireland to represent Team GB at Rio in the event of Ireland faling to qualify.

"Theoretically, I wouldn't have any view because it would be the view of the union which would hold sway and not my view."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
December 2009: Drop rugby sevens from Olympics to save Scotland says Maxwell