Spain women’s captain Elisabet Martinez is hoping her side can follow in the footsteps of the nation’s men’s team and secure a place at Rio 2016 at the upcoming Olympic Repechage tournament at the UCD Bowl in Dublin.
The event, due to begin tomorrow and concludes on Sunday (June 26) is the final chance for the teams to qualify for this year’s Games, where rugby sevens will make its debut on the Olympic programme.
Only one country can seal their place in the first-ever Olympic rugby sevens tournament and Spain head into the competition as one of the top three seeds, along with Russia and hosts Ireland.
The Spanish men were involved in a dramatic finale of last weekend’s men’s event in Monaco as they scored a last minute try to stun top seeds Samoa and clinch a surprise spot at Rio 2016.
Martinez says their shock victory can inspire her team to success in Dublin, describing the tournament as a “huge opportunity” for Spanish rugby.
“The men qualifying for the Games is a huge boost for us and we must use this to have more will to get our place,” Martinez said.
“It is a huge opportunity for us which we must take and what better achievement for Spanish rugby than to have both teams - men and women - in Rio de Janeiro?”
Spain, Russia and Ireland have a core place on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series and are expected to battle it out for victory, though emerging nations Hong Kong and China will also fancy their chances of prevailing in the Irish capital.
All of the competing teams will be bidding to join hosts Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, the United States, Colombia, France, Fiji, Japan and Kenya at Rio 2016.
Ireland captain Lucy Mulhall feels they will be able to harness the energy of the home crowd and insists they have the quality to reign supreme on home soil.
“We’re really excited to get out on the field,” she said.
“Playing in front of your family and friends is a rarity in sevens and we hope to have a huge crowd behind us.
“We’ve got a great panel of players - you bring 12 to a tournament but we’ve had 25-30 pushing for places and that quality will show on the field.”
A total of 16 teams will take to the field in Dublin, with Russia taking on Samoa, Zimbabwe and Madagascar in Pool A.
Spain have been drawn in Pool B alongside Mexico, Venezuela and Tunisia, while Ireland are the favourites in Pool C, which also features China, Portugal and Trinidad and Tobago.
Hong Kong, Argentina, Kazakhstan and the Cook Islands make up Pool D.