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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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American football player Nate Ebner is to take a break from the sport in a bid to be selected for the United States' rugby sevens team at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The 27-year-old safety has been granted a leave of absence by National Football League (NFL) powerhouse New England Patriots to pursue his dream of competing at the Games.

Ebner has already represented the US at sevens, becoming their youngest ever player at 17.

He also played 15-a-side rugby union for the country's under-19 and under-20 teams and was an All-American rugby player at Ohio State University.

He plans to return to the Patriots after competition concludes in Rio on August 11.

The new NFL season is scheduled to get underway on September 8.

Ebner's announcement comes after New England handed the 2014 Super Bowl winner a new two-year contract.

He will now train at the US Olympic training facility in Chula Vista, California.

"First and foremost, I want to thanks the Patriots from top to bottom for giving me the opportunity to come back and play for a truly first class organisation," Ebner said to ESPN.

"I also want to thank them and USA Rugby for giving me the opportunity to chase a dream I've had since I was a boy in a sport in which I've always had a passion.

"I can't put into words how much this opportunity means to not only me, but my friends and family as well.

"I plan to represent the Patriots and our country to the best of my ability.

"Thanks again and go Pats and go USA."

Other American football players to have converted to rugby sevens, which will make its debut in Rio, include Carlin Isles and Bennie Brazell, who is also a sprinter.

The US qualified for Rio by winning the North American qualification tournament on home soil in Cary in June.

Fiji, Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, France, Japan, Kenya and Australia will also compete, alongside hosts Brazil.

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