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Rio here we come! By Natasha Brennan

4th June 2015
It has been quite a long time since I have written my last blog and alongside that, it is safe to say that the last few months have been extremely hectic!!
With training games against Holland, World Series tournaments in Canada, London and Amsterdam there certainly hasn't been a dull moment.

I would like to go into detail about each tournament, especially the likes of Canada as it is such a beautiful country but all of this will only be trumped by the fact that we only went on in the last game, of the last tournament to qualify for RIO 2016! The first objection and biggest goal for us as individuals and as a team England was to finish top four to qualify through the World Series for the Olympics.

Competition for the top four spots has been fierce and with England having some average performances in tournaments at points, it would be fair to say that we made things difficult for ourselves throughout the season. Each tournament presented us with huge learning curves, there were some fantastic performances and also some average performances and with the nature of 7's rugby, consistency is key and something we are learning to develop.

From a personal perspective, I had been playing extremely well and scoring some important tries at incisive moments but with the physical nature of rugby, injuries are inevitable and I managed to pick up a knee injury in our first game of London. Missing the rest of the tournament on home soil was a tough pill to swallow but I was hopeful I would be fit for Amsterdam however I sadly found out that I had torn my cartilage meaning I would not be fit for the most vital tournament. This was of course very disappointing but I still made the journey to Amsterdam along with my team mates as even though I couldn't play this particular tournament, we knew as a squad that it took everyone to do a job across the 6 World Series Tournaments throughout the year.

The goal in Amsterdam was that England needed to finish above America and France who were in joint 4th by 2 points in our table. When we had a great day 1 of the competition we thought we had secured ourselves a good quarter final draw, however a shocking result where USA demolished New Zealand (the 7's World Champions) meant that we faced New Zealand in the quarter finals, a must win game and a team we have struggled to beat all season. There was a real belief we could beat New Zealand and the fact it was a knock out meant that nothing would be left on the pitch. It was an exciting game with end to end play but for the first time this season and most importantly, it would be us that would end up on top! Taking us one step closer to qualifying GB for Rio and knocking the Champions out of the cup. With France losing their quarter final, and America winning their quarter final it meant that it was down to just us and America for the crucial 4th spot. We drew Australia in our semi which was a game that we struggled in and one we went on to loose, meaning that we needed America to lose their semi- final against Canada to still be in with a chance of qualification. It is a rare occasion that we would be willing Canada to win, as there has been no love lost between us all season, but this was certainly a game that we wanted them to do well in and fortunate for us they did; successfully beating America meaning the final spot for qualification would come down to a straight shoot-out between us and America in the 3rd/4th place playoff game. This was nail biting stuff, literally end to end but from the way the girls played there was never any doubt, even when it was close that we were never not going to win this game. Despite a late try from America, the final whistle blew and we had won 15 - 14! We finished on the same amount of points as America but had a significantly better point’s differential meaning we had secured team GB qualification for RIO 2016.

Moments after the game I watched the girls jump up and down, the staff embracing each other as everyone knew we had done the job and for a split second I couldn't help but feel a little bit sad that I wasn't on the pitch and playing a part in that specific moment, in that game but that was of course very short lived as I knew against the grain we had secured Olympic qualification and that was all that mattered. I went to join the team and everyone was so happy, embracing each other, knowing we had tough season and managed to pull through at the other side. As players and staff we came together and toasted with some Champagne to the Olympics and that feeling of being the first women's team to qualify GB 7's into its first Olympic games is another memory that will stay with me for a long time. Of course this is where the hard work starts now, with just over a year till RIO and our coach Simon Middleton before one tournament once shared a quote with us saying "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain" and this certainly rings true and one I will choose to live by over the next year!

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