Ireland's hopes of automatic qualification for next year's Paris Olympics will come down to one final tournament at the Toulouse Sevens stop (May 12-14) after a frustrating eighth-place finish at the Hong Kong Sevens.
The Irish side, who currently sit fifth in the World Series standings, needed a strong performance in Hong Kong to fend off the challenge of both Fiji and Great Britain, who are breathing down their necks for the final qualification spot. With France guaranteed a place at the Olympic Games as hosts, a top 5 finish in the HSBC World Sevens series will secure Ireland's Women a first ever place at Olympic Games.
It was a frustrating weekend for Ireland who failed to reach the semi-finals after losing 24-5 to Australia in the quarter-finals on Saturday. Ireland then suffered two more defeats on Sunday, losing 26-14 to France and 15-14 to the USA to record an 8th place finish overall. The bigger issue for Ireland was the fact that Team GB and Fiji picked up 16 points and 14 points respectivley to climb within a few points of Ireland in the overall rankings. Ireland received 6 points for finishing 8th.
New Zealand, Australia and Canada have already booked their tickets, leaving one spot up for grabs. Ireland will have one last chance to clinch that spot at the final leg of the World Series in Toulouse from May 12th-14th. Ireland’s lead in the overall standings is now down to just two points. It is a three-horse race for the final automatic Olympic spot. Ireland now know exactly what they have to do in order to claim that priceless Paris 2024 ticket - better or match Fiji and Great Britain's results in the upcoming tournament and qualify for the first time in history.
Ireland coach Allan Temple-Jones, who took over from Aiden McNulty earlier this week, said he was disappointed with his team's performance in Hong Kong but confident they can bounce back in Toulouse.
"We came here with high expectations and we didn't deliver. We made too many errors and we didn't take our chances when we had them. We have to learn from this and improve quickly," he said. "We still have a shot at Olympic qualification and we have to focus on that. We know we have the quality and the character to compete with the best teams in the world. We just have to show it on the pitch."
Ireland captain Lucy Mulhall echoed her coach's sentiments and said her team will not give up on their Olympic dream.
"It's a tough pill to swallow but we have to move on. We have one more opportunity and we have to make it count. We have worked so hard for this and we are not going to let it slip away," she said. "We have a great group of players and staff who are committed to this goal. We have to stick together and believe in ourselves. We have shown before that we can beat anyone on our day. We just have to do it again in Toulouse."