Ireland and England will join Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series champions Russia, France and Spain as the continent's representatives at Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.
Both teams qualify for next year’s marquee event in San Francisco thanks to their finishing positions on the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series, which concluded on Sunday in the Russian city of Kazan.
Ireland followed up the bronze medal they won in Malemort, France, last month with another third-place finish to end the series as runners-up, on points difference from France and England, while fourth place on the series overall was enough for England to claim the second qualification spot reserved for European teams.
Having topped Pool C with victories over Sweden, Poland and Ireland, England made sure of their place in San Francisco when they beat qualification rivals Wales 21-7 in the Cup quarter-final. France were next up in the semi-finals and a fine solo try from Heather Fisher set James Bailey’s side on their way to a 26-15 victory.
However, Russia proved too strong in the final, scoring three converted tries to add the Kazan title to the one they won in Malemort.
A LOT TO CROWE ABOUT
Seven converted tries, including a brace from predatory winger Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, saw Ireland overwhelm Portugal 49-7 in Cup quarter-finals, as they put the disappointment of their pool play loss to England firmly behind them.
After Ireland’s hopes of silverware ended with a 27-5 victory defeat to Russia in the semi-final, they showed their resilience to bounce back again and beat France 40-0 in the third-place play-off – a match that also decided second place on the series overall. Once again, Murphy-Crowe showed her class with four of her side’s six tries.
Ireland’s prized second-place ranking in Europe capped a fine 2016-17 campaign for Anthony Eddy’s side, which included a best-ever finish of ninth on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series and maiden wins over Fiji, England and France to continue their upward trajectory. Just three short years ago, Ireland were eighth at European level and without a world series place.
Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Sevens Series final standings – top six
1. Russia 40 points*
2. Ireland 32 points (+208)
3. France 32 points* (+149)
4. England 32 points (+85)
5. Wales 26 points
6. Spain 20 points+
* Qualified for RWC Sevens 2018 through the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2016-17
+ Qualified as a semi-finalist from RWC Sevens 2013