A popular Irish song begins, “Dublin can be heaven, with coffee at 11, and a stroll in Stephen’s Green”.
Well Dublin is certainly heavenly this weekend for the 16 women's sevens teams who will take part in the Olympic Repechage to determine the final qualifier for Rio 2016.
The team captains went for a stroll in Stephen’s Green too on Thursday, meeting up for some photographs.
The buzz about the tournament has gone up a notch in the city, and the sight of 16 players brightly-clad in their nations’ colours were a popular distraction for Dubliners as they enjoyed picnic lunches in the historic centre-city park.
And after all the training and preparation for the event, the players are ready too.
“We’ve been training hard for four weeks now, and are just keen to get out on the field,” insisted Samoa captain Brenda Collins.
“We’ve a tough draw but we’d hope to have two wins under our belt before we face Russia on Saturday afternoon.”
To get to Rio would be enormous for the Samoan people, and would give a huge boost to the women’s game there.
“The Olympics are so important to us,” says Collins, a teacher in Wellington. “We have worked really hard to get ready and will give it our best shot.”
Ireland's 13th man
Hong Kong captain Christy Cheng is also confident, and happy to avoid the top three seeds in Russia, Spain and Ireland in the pool stages at UCD Bowl.
“We’ve got a pretty good pool, and we’d expect to finish top, but we don’t want to look too far ahead of that,” insisted Cheng, who helped Hong Kong reach the quarter-finals of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series qualifier in Dublin last August.
“For a couple of senior girls, like myself, this is our last shot to get to the Olympics. I started quite late, at 23, and I’m 31 now so I won’t have many more chances.”
As hosts, Ireland are keen to take the benefit of what captain Lucy Mulhall calls “the 13th man” on the sidelines.
“We’re really excited to get out on the field. Playing in front of your family and friends is a rarity in sevens and we hope to have a huge crowd behind us
“We’ve got a great panel of players – you bring 12 to a tournament but we’ve had 25-30 pushing for places and that quality will show on the field.
“We are going to give it everything we have to get to Rio. On our day we can beat any team but it’s going to take hard work this weekend. A few teams have been playing really well in the world series but there are others who we know very little about.”
The action gets underway at UCD Bowl on Saturday at 10:00 local time when Argentina take on Kazakhstan. Click here to buy tickets.
Photo credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
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