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Ireland's sevens girls hoping home comforts can carry them to Rio

By Jonathan Bradley

With a place in the upcoming Olympics at stake, the Ireland women's sevens squad are hoping that home advantage this weekend can take them all the way to Rio.

Tomorrow and Sunday, the UCD Bowl in Dublin will play host to the Olympic Qualifying tournament where the last place at this summer's Games will be decided.

Cooke's Ashleigh Baxter provides the Ulster representation in the 12-strong panel with Anthony Eddy hoping his players can succeed where the men's side came up short last weekend.

After a thrilling first day in Monaco that featured wins over Samoa and Tonga, the men fell three victories short of qualification after losing to eventual winners Spain in the quarters.

The coach, however, feels the women's increased experience at this level could stand them in good stead.

"The tournament this weekend is something we've been building towards all season," said Eddy.

"With both Olympic qualification and a place as a core team on next season's World Series, we are very much aware of what is at stake.

"The players have gained great experience from being on the World Series this year and understand what is required from them in UCD this weekend.

"They are all looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd and hopefully we can go out and get a good result."

Ireland have found themselves in a manageable pool - they will play Trinidad and Tobago, Portugal and China tomorrow - and will fully expect to be competing in Sunday's knock-out rounds.

It is there where things will become trickier with a potential clash against Russia set to be a testing task in the last four.

Meanwhile, the EPCR have confirmed arrangements for next week's Champions Cup draw in Switzerland.

After reaching the PRO12 semi-finals, Ulster will be in either the second or third band of seeds come Wednesday.

A preliminary draw will decide which pair of beaten finalists from the three domestic leagues join the top seeds of Connacht, Saracens and the winner of tonight's Top 14 decider between Toulon and Racing 92.

Should Leinster miss out, Ulster will be alongside them in the second pot but if not, the men from the Kingspan Stadium will be negotiating a tougher pool.

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