England youngster Holly Aitchison said she was confident the team can win the European Olympic qualifiers in Kazan and secure a place in the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan.
England are one of 12 teams vying for a single spot and expect intense competition from opponents such as France, Russia, Ireland and Spain. Teams failing to win the tournament have another chance to qualify through a repechage competition.
Aitchison said England have beaten the likes of France and Russia during the HSBC World Sevens Series campaign and she expected the squad to replicate that form in the qualifiers.
“We’re not even thinking about the repechage, to be honest. We’re confident,” Aitchison was quoted as saying by Rugby Pass. “We’ve beaten these teams during the series and although we didn’t have the consistency to start the season, if you look at the last two or three tournaments or even the invitational events where they’ve taken a fully loaded squad, we’ve beaten the likes of Russia, France, Ireland and Spain across the year.
“We’re confident going into that tournament that we can replicate that again. It’s exciting that there’s a bit of pressure to perform and get to that Olympic stage and I think we’re definitely where we need to be right now to get there.”
England finished sixth in the world series and Aitchison said the inclusion of too many players in the squad was responsible for the inconsistent performances.
“The last three years since I’ve been involved with the programme, it has almost been us laying a foundation for where we are going,” she said. ““I think it was difficult in the last couple [of Sevens Series’] with players leaving the programme and having a lot of new faces come in. There were so many changes over the past three years.
“Now we’ve got a solid base of players you can see, when we’ve got that time together, what we’re capable of. It’s really exciting. If you look at the start of the year, we were eight new caps and it almost helped us, being thrown in at the deep end, as it gave those new players that experience on the Series that maybe they wouldn’t have had in previous years.”
Aitchison is a two-time U18 European sevens champion and a member of the squad that lifted the Challenge Trophy at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Main photo: World Rugby