Great Britain are the latest to confirm their places in the men’s and women’s competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after England won the Rugby Europe regional qualifiers in France and Russia respectively on Sunday.
England’s women were the first celebrating after silencing the home crowd in Kazan with a 19-0 victory over Russia in the final, avenging their loss in the pool stages with second-half tries from Heather Fisher, Emma Uren and Alex Matthews.
Their male counterparts also faced a partisan home crowd in Colomiers, but a first-half hat-trick by Dan Norton – the all-time leading try-scorer in HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series history – set England on the way to a 31-7 victory over France.
Seven women's teams have now confirmed their place at Tokyo 2020 in hosts Japan, South American champions Brazil, Great Britain and the four teams who qualified courtesy of a top-four finish in the series in New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia.
Great Britain are the eighth men’s qualifier, joining hosts Japan, regional qualifiers Argentina (South America) and Canada (North America) and the four sides who qualified through the 2019 series in Fiji, USA, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Olympic dream remains alive for beaten finalists Russia and France, who progress to the global repechage next year, alongside France’s women and Ireland’s men who finished third in their respective events.
Half of the teams are now confirmed for the 12-team repechage tournaments with Russia and France joining Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Jamaica in the women's event while France and Ireland join Brazil, Chile, Jamaica and Mexico in the men's.
With five core teams on the world series involved, the women's competition was expected to be one not to miss with Ireland the first to fall by the wayside on Sunday, losing 17-7 to England in the quarter-finals.
France, who had finished fifth in the 2019 series, met England in the first semi-final with Holly Aitchison's conversion proving the difference after two tries apiece. France did have a chance to snatch victory at the end but were pushed back off the ball with the line beckoning as England triumphed 14-12.
Spain had started the second semi-final brightly against Russia with Anne Fernandez de Corres getting to within a metre of the try-line, but Russia capitalised on two sin-bins for Las Leonas to score tries through Daria Shestakova and captain Alena Mikhaltsova to win 12-5.
That pitted Spain and France into a third place-play-off with a place in the global repechage at stake. It was France who kept their dream of a second Olympic appearance alive after Anne-Cécile Ciofani scored two of three first-half tries in a 17-5 victory.
Spain’s men – like their female counterparts – had won the global repechage to qualify for Rio 2016, but they were eliminated from Tokyo 2020 contention by neighbours Portugal in the quarter-finals.
Portugal, though, had no answer to England in the semi-finals with Norton and Mike Ellery among the try-scorers in a 29-12 victory, and then saw their Olympic dream ended after Ireland fought back to win 26-12 in the third place play-off.
Ireland, who will join the world series as a core team for the first time next season, had lost to France in a semi-final that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. The teams had been tied at 12-12 until France captain Jean-Pascal Barraque put Terry Bouhraoua into space for his second try of match.
The road to Tokyo 2020 takes a break now until the African women's qualifier on 12-13 October in Jemmal, Tunisia. For the remaining regional qualifier dates, click here.
Photo: Anastasia Osipova/RUR and Serge Gonzalez
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