Ireland, France, Russia Seal Rugby Sevens Olympic Qualification
Ireland’s men’s team and France and Russia’s women’s team are still in a joyous mood after claiming the three remaining rugby sevens spots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following the just concluded World Rugby Sevens Repechage tournament in Monaco.
In a thrilling men’s final showcasing the very best of rugby sevens, Ireland’s Terry Kennedy opened the scoring early, but the Irish team had to recover from a 12-7 half-time deficit to secure their place at the Olympic Games for the first time.
Jordan Conroy scored a pair of second-half tries, while Harry McNulty added a fourth that put the seal on a 28-19 victory.
Ireland captain Billy Dardis described the experience as bizarre.
“You dream of doing something really special, and that’s playing rugby. It’s incredible what we’ve done just over a number of years. It’s absolutely incredible,” an excited Billy said.
Ireland’s Conroy finished as the men’s tournament’s top try scorer with 11 tries and was delighted at the prospect of becoming an Olympian.
“It’s an absolute dream come true to beat France and go to the Olympics, you don’t get to call yourself an Olympian every day,” he said.
The majority of the fans inside Stade Louis II had hoped to see a France double after Les Bleues had earlier sealed their qualification to Tokyo alongside Russia.
France’s women beat Hong Kong 51-0 to secure their return to the Games while Russia’s women will make their Olympic debut in Japan next month after winning 38-0 against Kazakhstan.
France started strongly against Hong Kong and took less than a minute to open the scoring as captain Fanny Horta took a pass from Seraphine Okemba to touch down.
It was a dominant performance from the French team as Guerin and Ciofani completed hat-tricks.
Meanwhile, Okemba scored her ninth and 10th tries of the tournament in the second period to ensure Les Bleues qualified for Tokyo 2020 in style with a 49-0 win.
Russia were too strong for Kazakhstan in the other qualifier final and ran in four tries before half-time through captain Alena Tiron, Anna Baranchuk, Marina Kukina, and Nadezhda Sozonova.
Elena Zdrokova added two tries after the break to take her tally at the repechage to nine and put the seal on a 38-0 victory and Olympic qualification.
“I’m incredibly happy, I can’t hold my tears. We were chasing it for many years and we have achieved it,” Tiron said after the final.
The line-up is now complete for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rugby sevens competition as the 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams can look forward to competing on the greatest sporting stage on the planet in just over a month’s time.
To ensure the teams are as best prepared as possible for the Olympic Games, and thanks to support received from the International Olympic Committee, World Rugby is investing US$4 million into Olympic qualified unions’ sevens programmes and towards the costs of hosting a number of high-performance preparation events around the globe, including events in Los Angeles and Townsville, Australia next weekend.
The men’s Olympic competition will take place from 26-28 July, with the women’s tournament following on the 29-31 July, culminating in the gold medal match on ‘Super Saturday’. Australia and Fiji are reigning women’s and men’s Olympic champions.