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Women’s Six Nations stars to go for gold in Tokyo

Jasmine Joyce

Having been on opposing sides during this year’s Women’s Six Nations, a selection of Championship stars will come together to go for gold in Tokyo this summer.

Great Britain have named their 12-strong women’s squad set to take part in the rugby sevens competition at this summer’s Olympics, five of whom will be making their return to the smaller-sided format after impressing on Championship duty in April.

Three of England’s victorious 2021 squad – Megan Jones, Helena Rowland and Alex Matthews – are included, with Jones co-captaining alongside compatriot Abbie Brown.

They are joined by World Cup winner Natasha Hunt, who helped the Red Roses to consecutive Grand Slams in 2019 and 2020 but missed the chance to help her teammates defend their crown earlier this year through injury.

The 32-year-old is one of three players in the squad now preparing for a second Olympics alongside Brown and jet-heeled Jasmine Joyce, who played at wing and full-back for Wales in this year’s Women’s Six Nations.

Joyce was just 20 when she made her Games bow in Rio, which saw Team GB’s women narrowly miss out on a podium place after being beaten 33-10 by Canada in the bronze medal match, and will be key to her side’s medal hopes this time around.

Scotland are represented in the squad by Hannah Smith, who made her Women’s Six Nations debut in 2013 and scored her country’s sole try against England earlier this year.

Smith has taken a sabbatical from her career as a veterinary surgeon to focus on rugby and is joined in the squad by her Scotland teammate Lisa Thomson, who will fly to Tokyo as a reserve and be ready to step up should any injuries hit the camp between now and the start of the women’s competition on July 29.

The action takes place over three days, concluding on July 31, in what is just the second rugby sevens contest to take place at an Olympics following the sport’s debut in Rio.

Head coach Scott Forrest said: “Selection was very tough. We’ve had 22 players involved in the programme since we started in March who have created a very competitive environment. Every one of those players has been so important.

“And it’s not just about the successful 13 players who have been selected. If we are successful in Tokyo, it’s going to be down to the whole squad, the whole 22 not just those who are going out to perform at the Olympic Games.

“I’ve seen massive improvements in the team and what we’ve managed to do since March. We’re now excited to see what we can do.

“For the 13 that are selected, when you look at the squad on paper it’s very exciting.

“This squad for me has the potential to go and win a gold medal. We’ve definitely got the potential and that for me as a coach is really exciting.”

Team GB squad: Holly Aitchison (England), Abbie Brown (England), Abi Burton (England), Deborah Fleming (England), Natasha Hunt (England), Megan Jones (England), Jasmine Joyce (Wales), Alex Matthews (England), Celia Quansah (England), Helena Rowland (England), Hannah Smith (Scotland), Emma Uren (England)

Women’s reserve: Lisa Thomson (Scotland)