Great Britain are looking to end their first full year in the World Series by coming from behind to dramatically win the World Series' final qualification spot at the Olympics this weekend in Toulouse.
We spoke to GB co-captain about the challenges of Great Britain's first year together.
Until two tournaments ago, the fourth Olympic spot seemed to have been sewn up. Ireland were going to take it, with the only possible threat being Fiji.
But that has changed dramatically over the last two rounds. Ireland's lead has been eaten away and if Great Britain can repeat their performances in Vancouver and Hong Kong, they could achieve one of the most remarkable turnarounds since the Series began and take that fourth Olympic spot, avoiding the need to win Europe's regional qualifier at the European Games in Krakow at the end of next month.
We caught up with GB co-captain Meg Jones as she prepares for kick-off on Friday.
Scrumqueens: You have closed the gap between GB and the final Olympic spot from 16 points after Sydney down to just four. How have you managed to do this?
Meg Jones: Trusting the process, players understanding each other better, continuously learning about the game. Each time we get ourselves into camp or hit the training field we look for a 1% gain, in any capacity. That has been our drive and focus. The belief of the group in one another is just growing each tournament.
SQ: That growth in belief has been clear from anyone watching the Series. But has this Olympic qualification year almost come a year too soon?
MJ: More time with each other would obviously be amazing but these are the cards we’ve been dealt and we’ve approached it with great optimism.
SQ: For many of the players and coaching staff this has been their first year on the World Series. Is it what you expected?
MJ: As a whole programme we have a huge emphasis on Pushing The Boundaries. We knew this season was going to be about making small incremental gains with eyes set on Olympic qualification. A lot of our journey has been about the process and not focusing too much on the outcome- and that’s got us in this unique position where we can qualify this weekend.
SQ: What have been the challenges of bringing players and coaches together from different unions?
MJ: Our biggest challenge was getting us fighting fit and bonded in a short space of time. We had players returning from a15s World Cup and then completely new coaching setup which was always going to be different. In the long run this is going to be best thing for 7s in Great Britain and the future. We’ve made huge improvements each tournament and are only on the up.
SQ: What have been the most memorable moments?
MJ: I think Hong Kong definitely gave us a sense of belief and had a lot of moments of firsts. It was our 1st Semi final and our 1st World Series medal.
SQ: Where do you anticipate being in the series next year?
MJ: Next year we will be building on the foundations we’ve set up this year. The whole programme has learnt and learnt fast on what works and what doesn’t work for us.
SQ: How do you close the gap with New Zealand and Australia?
MJ: Great question - consistency and time. Not much more to it. We need consistency with staff and players as that’s what gets you to next level. With that, you build relationships and a belief system that become unstoppable - on top of all the hard graft and skills!
SQ: Despite your improving performances, 7s has become almost invisible in the UK, no longer appearing on TV, little reported in the sports press. What are people missing? How would you sell it?
MJ: Sevens an action packed weekend- something I think we can keep pushing as a sport. It's a fun weekend for families, those that enjoy partying and just your all out rugby fans! It definitely needs to be more accessible to watch because all the hard graft of the players and teams are definitely being missed.
SQ: Looking beyond Toulouse, how are you going to approach the Euro 7s (pre the European Games)? Will you be sending a full GB team or using it mainly to blood new players as England tended to do?
MJ: The first European leg is a seeding for the Olympic Qualification so it's very much an important tournament for us leading into it. Beyond that will depend on how each tournament goes!
SQ: If a young girl saw you play and wanted to play sevens for Great Britain, what would your advice be?
MJ: If you like fast, exciting and unique sports then you’ve come to the right place. Definitely try it. I never dreamt of playing 7s now it’s all I dream of. The competitive nature of each tournament and the high and lows are what brings the best out of me, which I love.