Rugby Sevens women qualify for Rio Olympics
23 May 2015
RUGBY: The Qantas Australian Women's Sevens team has qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Pool B victories over Russia (29-7), China (48-0) and England (24-7) means that Australia have made it to the last eight in Amsterdam and cannot be caught by any of the teams outside of the top four in the 2014/15 Women's Sevens World Series standings.
On qualifying for the Olympics, Australian Women's Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said: "We had an emotional chat in the dressing sheds when we heard the news and it's certainly a monkey off our back. Qualifying for the Olympics is something we have been talking about for the last two or three years so I am immensely proud and overwhelmed. I'm sure there will be a few tears shed when this tournament is done."
Following the day's play in Amsterdam, Walsh said: "We got better throughout the day and in that last game [against England] we showed a lot of bottle. They are playing for Olympic qualification themselves and were strong but I was very proud with how we performed and stood up to them.
"Today we managed to use the depth of the squad very well. You've got players coming in and making a massive difference when they come on the field. To have a big squad who we have confidence in is a real pleasure from a coaching point of view."
On the quarter-final clash with Russia, Walsh said: "I say it every tournament but the Cup Quarter-Final first up is the most important of the weekend. We'll face a team in Russia desperate to win World Series points for their own Olympic aspirations so it's crucial that we are fully prepared."
Australia got their campaign in Amsterdam off to the ideal start when they clinically disposed of Russia. The Russians started strongly and despite stringing several phases of possession together in attack, they couldn't break through. With their first touch of the football, half-back Charlotte Caslick found Emma Tonegato who raced clear to score under the posts. Alicia Quirk's pinpoint kick picked out Chloe Dalton for another five-pointer before Emilee Cherry added a third try just before half-time. Ellia Green and Tiana Penitani both scored in the second half to put the result beyond doubt. Zhanna Mateeva crossed over late on but it proved no more than a consolation for the beaten Russians.
Walsh's side proved far too strong in the eight-try demolition of China. With Nicole Beck hugely influential in the playmaker role, Emilee Cherry (2), Emma Tonegato (2), Gemma Etheridge, Ellia Green, Tiana Penitani and Alicia Quirk all scored to give the Aussies a resounding win.
In a physical clash against a fired-up England looking to boost their chances of automatic qualification for the Olympics, it was the Aussies who found themselves on the back-foot early on. However, after repelling the English attack, Shannon Parry broke free of one tackle and then sent Alicia Quirk clear to score her second try of the weekend. Australia doubled its advantage with their second foray into the English 22 - quick feet from Emma Tonegato left the opposition flat-footed and the Wollongong-born winger did the rest. Emily Scarratt pulled a try back for the 2014 XVs Rugby World Cup winner after a powerful run but Tonegato scored again following a classic break from Emilee Cherry. Evania Pelite scored the 12th try of her World Series career to seal the win late on to cap what was a historic day for Australian Rugby.
In the other Cup Quarter-Finals, the USA will play Spain, Canada face off against France and England meet New Zealand.
Fans can watch Finals Day LIVE via www.worldrugby.org/womens-sevens-series/. FOX SPORTS will once again broadcast Finals Day from 11.20pm AEST on Saturday 23 May through to 2.10am AEST on Sunday 24 May.
Australian Rugby Union Release
NB: This is the first team sport to secure quota spots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Australia is expected to qualify in all sports, with the exception of Handball.