Irish complete men’s line-up while France and Russia qualify for women’s event in Tokyo


Ireland qualify for the Olympics

The line-ups for the sevens tournaments at the Tokyo Olympics are now complete.

This weekend’s repechage event in Monaco determined the final qualifiers, with France and Russia going through to the women’s event in Japan next month and Ireland to the men’s.

With just one men’s place at the Games available, it came down to a straight shootout between France and Ireland in the final.

Both teams emerged from their pools unbeaten, then Ireland beat Hong Kong 28-5 in their semi-final and France saw off Samoa 31-0.

In the final, Terry Kennedy got Ireland off to the perfect start with a first-minute try but it was France who led 12-7 at the break after Stephen Parez and Paulin Riva crossed.

A stunning solo score from Jordan Conroy, converted by Billy Dardis, then put Ireland ahead early in the second half.

Conroy was put away down the wing to add a second soon after and when Ireland capitalised on a French error to send Harry McNulty over they knew they had booked their place in Tokyo. France got a late consolation try but Ireland had won 28-19.

It’s an incredible achievement for Ireland given that the nation’s sevens programme was only restarted six years ago; now they are going to the Olympics – the first Irish rugby team to compete at the Games.

Ireland captain Dardis gave an emotional interview post-match, saying: “Words can’t describe it. You dream of doing something really special your whole life… It’s incredible what we’ve done.

“What went on out on that pitch I thought we were out of it for a while in the first half, but then we got a few lucky bounces and that’s sevens; the bounce of the ball goes your way and you end up at the Olympics. It’s incredible. I don’t really know what else to say other than, how cool is that?”

There were two spots available in the women’s event, and the French and Russian teams lived up to their billing as the favourites to book their tickets to Tokyo with relative ease.

Both teams topped their pools with three wins from three, then France thumped Colombia 52-0 in their semi-final while Russia beat Samoa 29-0.

Both were comfortable winners in their finals too. Russia beat Kazakhstan 38-0 to qualify for the Olympics for the first time and produced a unique celebration too.

France beat Hong Kong 51-0 in their final to ensure they maintained a clean sheet for the whole weekend – they didn’t concede a single point!

Seraphine Okemba scored two tries against Hong Kong to become the top try-scorer over the weekend with ten in all. She said: “I scored the tries but it’s all the team’s work. The girls gave me the space to do what I’ve done.”

The sevens events at the Tokyo Olympics both take place at the end of next month, with the men’s competition running from 26-28 July and the women’s tournament 29-31 July.

The 12 women’s teams taking part are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Fiji, France, Great Britain, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Russia and USA.

The 12 men’s teams are Argentina, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and USA.

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