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There was unbridled joy for the Ireland men's and Great Britain women’s rugby sevens teams inside the Henryk Reyman’s Municipal Stadium in Kraków on Tuesday as they booked their place at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The Great Britain women’s team overcame host nation Poland 33-0 in their final, while the men fell one win short of making it a golden double with Ireland comfortable 26-12 winners in the other final.
Great Britain women are now one of seven teams confirmed in the line-up for the third Olympic Games rugby sevens competition, joining hosts France, the four qualified teams from the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – New Zealand, Australia, USA and Ireland – and the first regional qualifiers Brazil.
Following their maiden appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Games, Ireland's men will once again compete at the sport’s showpiece event in Paris next year, where Ireland's women will make their debut.
Ireland also became the seventh men’s team to confirm their place at the Olympics along with hosts France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji and Australia from the World Series, and South American qualifiers Uruguay.
As the silver and bronze medallists at the European Games, Great Britain and Spain (men) and Poland and Czechia (women) will get another chance to qualify for Paris 2024 via the World Rugby Sevens Repechage.
Conroy brace clinches qualification for Ireland
In the men’s competition, Ireland were in clinical form as they progressed through to the knockout stages as Pool A winners, defeating Poland (66-0), Italy (58-7) and Germany (19-7) before overcoming Belgium at the quarter-final stage (26-12) and Portugal (24-0) in the last four.
Spain breezed past Belgium, Czechia and Georgia to top Pool B before defeating Belgium for a second time to earn the right to play for a medal.
Great Britain surged to the top of Pool C with wins over Romania (45-0), Lithuania (24-0) and Portugal (31-5). A hard-earned win over Germany (14-10) put them in the semi-finals where they defeated Spain 19-7 to remain on course for gold.
In the final, Ireland were in control of the scoreboard from the moment Billy Dardis crossed after some good counter-rucking by Andrew Smith won them possession metres from the Great Britain line.
Tom Williams replied for Great Britain but there was no stopping Ireland once World Rugby Sevens Men's Player of the Year 2022, Terry Kennedy, hot-stepped his way past four defenders.
Not to be outdone, Jordan Conroy, the man for the big stage, scored a try on either flank to put the result beyond any doubt before Femi Sofolarin scored a consolation at the death for Great Britain.
Spain had earlier cantered to the bronze medal with a 42-0 win over Iberian rivals Portugal in the third-place decider.
Uren scores twice as Great Britain deny hosts
Like Ireland's men, Great Britain women completed an unbeaten tournament when they rounded off the three-day event with a 33-0 victory against Poland.
Wins over Norway (55-0), Italy (36-5) and Czechia (37-5) put them into the quarter-finals where they accounted for Germany (53-0) with Ellie Boatman scoring a hat-trick to add to the four she had scored already in the tournament.
Pool A winners Great Britain then confirmed their place in the final with a 36-12 win against Belgium.
Poland were equally unstoppable in Pool B, chalking up wins against Turkey (50-0), Portugal (26-0) and Germany (43-7) before victories over Italy (33-15) and Czechia (29-7) in the knockout stages put them within touching distance of the gold medal.
Spain dispatched Romania, Sweden and Belgium to win Pool C but a 17-12 quarter-final defeat to Czechia ended their Olympic qualification hopes and it was Belgium who made it through to the semi-finals instead.
Backed by a partisan home crowd, Poland flew into Great Britain from the first whistle of the final with some aggressive defending but a quickfire brace from Emma Uren quietened them down and, from then on in, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Poland’s inability to make the final pass stick hampered their ability to turn the possession they had into points whereas Great Britain were ultra-clinical whenever they got the ball away from the hotly-contested contact area.
Tokyo Olympian Megan Jones scored her team’s third try on the stroke of half-time and Rhona Lloyd and Amy Wilson-Hardy added two more after the break.
In the bronze medal match, Czechia’s rapid rise in rugby sevens continued with an exciting 24-17 win over Belgium. The lead changed hands three times in a fluctuating first half but two tries from Kristyna Riegertova, one a long-bursting effort from inside her own half, settled the outcome.
The next regional qualification tournament is in Langford, Canada, on 19-20 August, where one more men’s and women’s team will book their tickets to Paris.
The Olympic Games rugby sevens competition runs from 24-30 July, 2024 at the Stade de France in Paris.