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Great Britain women keen to prove their rugby sevens pedigree on Olympic stage

Published 05/08/2016

Emily Scarratt will lead Great Britain's women into rugby sevens action at the Rio Olympics on Saturday
Emily Scarratt will lead Great Britain's women into rugby sevens action at the Rio Olympics on Saturday

Great Britain captain Emily Scarratt is ready to lead a team "here with ambitions" when rugby union returns to the Olympics on Saturday.

Rugby last featured in the Games 92 years ago, but the sevens code will make its bow at Deodoro Stadium, north of Rio, when France and Spain kick off a 12-team women's tournament.

Britain open up against host nation Brazil, and while reigning World Series champions Australia start as favourites for gold, Scarratt and company are genuine medal contenders.

And Scarratt, England's star player of their World Cup triumph two years ago, is relishing stepping on to world sport's biggest stage.

"We are here with ambitions," she told Press Association Sport.

"We know if we play the way that we can and are capable of, then we can really come away with something, but as ever, doing that is often far more difficult than saying it.

"The transition from 15s to sevens is tough in different ways. The fundamentals are still the same - pass, catch, tackle - but the physical side is tough. We just seem to run all day, every day!

"The position I play in, I am quite fortunate that I can slot into the forwards and the backs and do a bit of everything. It is such an exciting sport."

Scarratt's 2014 England team-mates - fellow proven international performers like Katy McLean, Danielle Waterman and Natasha Hunt - help provide crucial experience, and the skipper added: "We can definitely draw on two years ago.

"We've been through high pressure situations and through the long campaigns in terms of still peaking at the end.

"I think it is really important that all those players add a massive amount of value to our squad, and even the players that haven't been there, we went through qualifying last year where it came down to one game that we had to win.

"We were able to do that, and around the whole squad there is a wealth of experience of different kinds of natures that will hopefully all come together."

The three pool winners and runners-up progress to Sunday's quarter-finals, in addition to the two best third-placed teams, and Scarratt predicts an intriguing competition.

"I have no doubt there will be some upsets," she said.

"The nature of sevens all season has suggested an exciting game over a short period, and upsets can easily happen. One missed tackle can make all the difference.

"Putting rugby on this kind of stage, you want it to be competitive and a real showcase for the world to see.

"It is a huge opportunity for women's rugby on the world's biggest sporting stage, and to have an opportunity to represent your country here is really exciting.

"The nations that perhaps didn't feature as much four or five years ago are now really striving for the top.

"In the World Series this year, we've seen the top five teams beating each other at some point throughout the season, which means you have got to be right on your game in every match."

Britain's threat, meanwhile, is not lost on Australia's star player Ellia Green, who has moved into rugby from athletics and proved a prolific try-scorer during the 2016 World Series.

Green said: "Great Britain are a very strong team. A lot of them have been playing for a long time.

"They have a very strong contact game, and we need to play to our abilities and not try to beat them in a contact game."

Britain also play Japan on Saturday, followed by Canada the following day, with Australia drawn alongside the United States, Fiji and Colombia, while the other group comprises of New Zealand, France, Spain and Kenya.

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