In 12 months’ time, Australia co-captain Sharni Williams will hope to lead her nation out at Tokyo Stadium when the women’s rugby sevens competition gets underway at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Williams and her Australian team-mates wrote their names into the history books on 8 August, 2016 as rugby sevens’ first Olympic gold medallists at Rio 2016 in Brazil – a day the former car mechanic will never forget.

“No-one can take that moment away from us,” Williams told World Rugby after Australia confirmed their place at Tokyo 2020 with a fourth-place finish on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019.

“It was a phenomenal day for us, we’d planned it day in, day out and four years we’d been waiting for it and to be able to play for your country alongside other sports was an absolutely amazing feeling.

“I think we’ll continue to celebrate it years from now.”

Defence the target

Williams was co-captain alongside Shannon Parry on that unforgettable day in Rio when Australia beat New Zealand 24-17 in the gold medal match at Deodoro Stadium, thanks to tries from Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite, Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick.

Seven members of that gold medal team were involved on the 2019 series with another expected to return next season after former World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Emilee Cherry welcomed daughter Alice into the world last month.

“It’s really exciting to know that we have qualified for Tokyo,” Williams added.

“Everyone talks about defending that title and it would be absolutely amazing, and that’s the next opportunity for us. This game just provides so many goals to tick off and to go away to Tokyo is awesome.”

Phenomenal season

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Unlike at Rio 2016 when the women’s competition kicked off the rugby sevens events, in Tokyo 2020 the men’s teams will battle for gold first from 27-29 July, with the women’s gold medals to be determined on 1 August or ‘Super Saturday’ after three days of thrilling sevens.

It is fitting that on the day that marks a year to go until they begin their bid for gold in Tokyo, the Rio 2016 Olympic champions are in the Japanese city of Odawara for a training camp.

But there is a lot of rugby to be played before then and Williams, a veteran of more than 30 series tournaments and Rugby World Cups in both 15s and sevens, can’t wait to see what unfolds over the next 12 months.

“This season was phenomenal for women’s rugby, you could see the standard rising more and more,” said

“Next season you’re obviously going to see more tournaments, so it’s going to expand even more and it’ll be a lot faster and we’ll see some amazing athletes being produced in these games.”