IRELAND WOMEN ARE next onto the Olympic qualification path as they head for the first leg of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix in Marcoussis.
The tournament doubles as the seeding round for the European Olympic Qualifier which will take place in Kazan on 13-14 July.
Captain Lucy Mulhall returns to lead an experienced group hoping to lay down a marker against the three European teams who finished above them in the World Series campaign.
After a 12-strong squad went to the Biarritz 7s a fortnight ago, Mulhall is joined by Westmeath woman Anna McGann, while Aoife Doyle makes way to leave the squad with 13.
Ireland will begin their weekend tomorrow against World Series rivals Spain (kick-off 12.14 Irish time, live broadcast available here), who trailed Anthony Eddy’s side by five points at the end of the season.
While Ireland complete the pool against Italy (3pm) and Scotland (5.44), top-ranked European side France will take on a pool of Belgium, Wales and the Netherlands.
England must tackle Russia, Ukraine and Poland before the knockout rounds come down for decision on Sunday.
The top four from the Sevens World Series – New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia – have already secured automatic qualification for Tokyo 2020. The stacked European Qualifier in Kazan represents the second of three chances for Ireland to reach the Olympics.
Should they fail to win on 14 July, attention will then turn to the final places available through a global repechage to be played next year.
Ireland Men, who last weekend earned second-seed for their Olympic qualifier, today learned their pool opponents for July 13-14. Eddy’s men will take on Russia, Ukraine and Spain – who managed to beat France in their pool meeting last weekend, in Pool B.