After a 92-year hiatus, rugby is finally making its return to the Olympic Games.
While 1924 was the last time the sport was played at the games, Rio 2016 will mark the fifth time rugby has made an appearance.
Much has changed since the USA won the gold medal in Paris in 1924. Aside from the natural changes that have taken place in the game over the last nine decades, the 2016 competition will be different for other reasons.
Instead of the regular form of the game, which includes 15 players (sans substitutes) on each team, the Rio tournament will showcase the shorter form of the game.
With seven players on each team, the games will be played over seven-minute halves, allowing the tournament to be completed over the course of one weekend (last year's 15-a-side world cup took over a month to complete in comparison).
This will also be the largest, by far, of the five competitions to date. Twenty-four teams, with representatives from each continent, will compete – with twelve teams each in the men's and women's competitions.
Prior to this, the most teams fielded for an Olympics was three (Paris 1900 and Paris 1924).
Rugby's entry into the Olympics
The story of rugby's participation at the early Olympics is a curious one. While it was generally terribly organised and widely ignored by most rugby-playing countries, it nonetheless proved to be highly popular and drew some of the biggest crowds of any of the events.
Rugby's original inclusion was due in no small part to the influence of the International Olympic Committee founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
De Coubertin was particularly fond of the game, seeing in its mental and physical attributes that it was "truly the reflection of life, a lesson experimenting in the real world, a first-rate educational tool." He even refereed the first French national championship match in 1892.
While rugby was absent from the first games of the modern era in 1896, it made its debut in Paris in 1900.
Three nations competed for the gold medal: Great Britain, France, and Germany. In reality though, none of the sides were true representations of their country. Rather, it was the Moseley Wanderers of Birmingham, a Parisian selection, and Frankfurt FC who flew the flags for their respective countries.
It was France who were victorious, winning both their games to take the gold. Great Britain and Germany never even got to play, with the English team having to catch a boat back home immediately after their game against France.
Although it missed out on the 1904 Olympics in St Louis, rugby was back in London in 1908.
This time, only two teams were present. Great Britain was represented by national champions Cornwall, while Australasia (New Zealand and Australia formed a combined Olympic team in 1908) were represented by the Australian national team who were already on a tour of Great Britain.
Australia comfortably won the fixture 32-3, giving the southern hemisphere its only Olympic rugby medal to date.
After an enforced break caused by the First World War, France and the USA competed for the gold medal in 1920, with Romania and Czechoslovakia withdrawing late from the competition.
Having participated in the fledgling 'Five Nations' competition for the previous ten years, France were runaway favourites to beat the Americans.
Rugby in America had been hit very hard by the wholesale adoption of the local American football rules, with only California retaining any kind of significant rugby culture.
Unsurprisingly then, the American selection comprised mainly of college students from Northern California. The team was led by player-coach Dan Carroll – who had won a gold medal with the Australian team back in 1908.
As it turned out, the Americans recorded a shock 8-0 victory over the French, becoming the third nation to win a gold medal.
The French were out for revenge in 1924, hosting both the USA and Romania in Paris. Romania were easily accounted for, beaten 61-3 by the French and 39-0 by the Americans.
The gold medal match was played at Colombes Stadium in Paris, in front of a hostile French crowd of 50,000.
The Americans were 20/1 longshots to win, but as the game progressed it became clear that they were the stronger and fitter team.
The crowd noticed as well, with a virtual riot taking place in the stands as the Americans took out the match 17-3. A pitch invasion then followed, with police doing their best to protect the teams as spectators broke down the tall wire fence that had been put up before the game.
The ugly scenes in Paris in 1924, coupled with the resignation of Baron de Coubertin in 1925, resulted in rugby being dropped from the Olympic programme. Team games in general were out of favour, with the Olympics becoming more the domain of individual sports.
2016 looks like it will have a very different atmosphere to the tournaments of the early 20th century. This time round, all the best teams in the world are present, and both men's and women's teams will be represented.
The favourites are teams that have never won the gold medal before: Fiji, South Africa, and New Zealand.
Great Britain, France, and Australia will also be there – all with a chance of grabbing a medal.
So too will the most successful rugby team in Olympic history. In 1924 the bookies had the USA as 20/1 outsiders – this year the New Zealand TAB have them at 13/1.
Stranger things have happened.
Tim Newman lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is a keen sports fan, particularly following Rugby and American Football.
Tim Newman's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-newman.html