Spain realise double Olympic dream

spain womens rugby7s

Women match male counterparts by winning #Dublin7s to complete the line-up for Rio 2016

Using their male counterparts’ emotional victory in Monaco last week as inspiration, Spain’s women upset the odds to book their place in the Olympic Games 2016, edging out a fancied Russia team in a thrilling final in Dublin on Sunday.

In lynchpin Patricia Garcia, Spain have a play-maker of genuine quality and her two tries in the final made all the difference as they eventually won out 19-12 in front of several hundred passionate and vociferous Spanish supporters at the UCD Bowl in the Irish capital. Afterwards, she was understandably delighted although not perhaps as emotional as Spain men’s captain Pablo Feijoo was last week when he could not hold back the tears during his memorable World Rugby TV post-match interview.

Garcia said: “It’s amazing. I’m really, really happy for the team – we are the happiest girls in the world at the moment because now we get to go to the biggest sporting stage of them all in Rio. It’s an incredible feeling. 

“Our men qualifying last week has been the inspiration for us all week. We took their example with the teamwork we showed. I am pretty emotional but with smiles, not tears.”

Despite some tough and hard-fought matches along the way, the two top-ranked and form sides made it through unscathed and set up a final that was always going to be tough to call. 

Earlier, Russia managed to squeeze past a resilient Ireland side, 19-10, despite a big local crowd willing Lucy Mulhall and her team onwards. In the other semi-final, Spain proved too strong for an emerging Kazakhstan side that will have gained plenty from the experience.

There was significant consolation for Ireland as they won the bronze medal match 17-5 against Kazakhstan, an achievement that came with the tangible benefit of securing core team status for next season’s HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series along with the already confirmed Spain and Russia from this repechage.

Rio 2016 will be an historic occasion for the sport as rugby returns to the Olympic programme after a break of 92 years and the first time ever for the sevens format. 

World Rugby Head of Competitions and Performance Mark Egan, who was present at the final, said: “Congratulations to Spain on this fantastic achievement. We have seen some top sevens action over the past two days here in Dublin, which really bodes well for the future development of the women’s game but ultimately only one team could win and become the 12th team to qualify for Rio.

“Rugby’s return to the Olympics is a great opportunity and we hope it will be one of the highlights of Rio 2016 as we showcase this great sport to a new audience of hundreds of millions around the world. It’s an exciting time to be involved in rugby and I know that all our member unions are ready to make the most of this opportunity as we continue to grow the game in each of our six global regions.

“I’d like to thank all the teams for their participation in this repechage tournament and to the IRFU and its partners for putting on such a great event.”