She may be returning from injury for this weekend’s Women’s Sevens World Series on home soil but Rachael Burford knows each and every member in the team will have to be on top form in order to keep their Olympic qualification hopes alive.
Rugby World Cup winners Burford and Kay Wilson have both been brought in by head coach Simon Middleton for the latest leg at Twickenham Stoop as he looks to add experience to his side.
Middleton’s charges currently sit joint fifth in the standings, level on points with the USA and four behind France – who occupy the fourth and final qualifying place for Rio 2016.
England have been nominated as the qualification team on behalf of the home nations with any possible team for next year’s Olympics being made up of players from across Great Britain.
With just the one tournament in the Netherlands to come after London, it promises to be a tight finish in the battle – something not lost on Burford.
“We know that we need to be on our game and our focus will have to last right through the two days,” she said.
“Being in front of your family and friends and knowing they’ll be there makes it the tournament that everyone wants to be fit for.
“The opportunity to go to the Olympics would be incredible for anyone. This group of players have been playing rugby for years and it would just mean everything to us.
“After turning professional, we’ve now got this chance. It’s a special time for us all.”
One source of encouragement for England is the performance in Canada last month, which saw a third-place finish after a hard-fought 24-14 loss to unbeaten New Zealand in the semi-final.
And Middleton admits he is keen for them to keep the momentum going in front of the home fans.
“We’ve been gradually working our way into form,” he said. “We’ve shown some good touches in a lot of the comps this year without being consistent enough.
“In Canada we were very consistent in the way that we played and the level we performed at. We’re encouraged that we’re heading in the right direction and we’re looking forward to London.
“Both days are critical. I’d be lying if I stood here and said day two wasn’t the biggest day, because it is.
“It will come down to who executes best on the day. Players and teams know each other so well.”
© Sportsbeat 2015