England women reach sevens World Cup with strong showing in Kazan
England women have qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 after finishing runners-up in the second leg of the two-part Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series, in Kazan.
A hard-fought Cup quarter-final victory over Wales, 21-7, proved enough for James Bailey's side to secure their place in San Francisco for the showcase competition next year.
Tries from Holly Aitchison and Millie Wood did the damage in the second half, while Jo Richardson-Watmore crossed to close out the game after Wales threatened a second-half comeback.
Coach Bailey said: "We are thrilled to achieve our season goal and secure qualification for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco next year.
"I'm extremely proud of this squad, how they have approached and played throughout the weekend. The work rate and energy never wavered with the players working hard for each other, leaving nothing behind.
"We wanted to come to Kazan and put in consistently good performances and that's exactly what the squad delivered."
The day was to get better for England, as Heather Fisher's score in the opening seconds paved the way for a 26-15 victory over France in the semi-finals.
Wood scored her second try in two games, though France fought back to reduce the gap to four by the break.
England were pinned in their own 22 for large parts of the second half, but an excellent intercept from Aitchison saw her run the length of the pitch to dot down a superb try, while Katie Mason added a fourth late on.
Their form wasn't to carry over into the Cup final though, missing out 21-0 to Russia having finished day one of the Kazan Sevens unbeaten following wins over Sweden, Poland and Ireland in Pool C.
The men's and women's sevens programmes in England are also set to work closer than they have before under the tutelage of head coach Simon Amor, confident the blend can be advantageous after a strong display at Rio last year.
"It is an incredibly exciting time for sevens off the back of a successful Olympics," said Amor.
"I enjoyed coaching the England Women's sevens squad several years ago and gained a good understanding of the set-up through that experience.
"Longer term, there are great benefits in the two programmes working closely together as we grow the game in England and are successful on the world stage."