With the battle to qualify for Rio 2016 beginning in earnest with the opening leg of this season’s World Rugby Women’s Seven Series in Dubai this week, England’s Rachael Burford admits she has her eyes firmly fixed on fighting all the way to Olympic gold.
The 2014/2015 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series carries added significance for the sevens squads this year with the top four countries after the series finale next May booking their spot in Rio.
England are the only home nation represented in this year’s Sevens Series and, as such, will lead the bid for qualification for Great Britain - although any eventual squad will be drawn using players from England, Scotland and Wales.
And they certainly got their challenge off to the perfect start in Dubai on Thursday, winning all three games against Fiji, Brazil and Canada to top Pool C and set up a Cup quarter-final against France on Friday.
The last game against Canada was a rematch of the Women’s World Cup final in the 15s format this summer which saw the England team, including Burford, lift the trophy for the first time.
And with a taste for success already this year, Burford admits she would love to add Olympic gold for Great Britain to her list of achievements.
“The sport has come on massively with all the coverage the World Cup received and I think that will happen again with sevens being included in the Olympics,” she said.
“Whether you’re a rugby fan or not, everybody talks about the Olympics and people will tune in and get excited. It is going to be huge for our sport.
“World Cups have always been the pinnacle, and I’ve been lucky enough to compete in both the Fifteens and Sevens format and to win a World Cup medal.
“But now there is a different goal to aspire to: winning gold at the Olympics.
“The unpredictability of sevens is huge, and that competitiveness is great for the long-term future of the sport. Everybody who has experienced a sevens tournament knows how exciting it is: the fast pace of it and the fact anything can happen.”
© Sportsbeat 2014