Cape Town - The British Olympic Association has announced on Tuesday the names of the 24 men and women who will compete in Sevens at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
It will be the first time in 108 years that Team Great Britain (GB) has had representation in rugby at Olympic level.
Emily Scarratt will captain the women’s squad which features a number of experienced names from England’s 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup winning side and the squad who have competed in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series last season as professional athletes.
The women’s squad, who have been training full time as a wider GB group since October last year, have played in invitational and training tournaments around the globe this season alongside England’s exploits on the circuit, in which they won the Langford event.
The men’s squad will be led by Tom Mitchell and names a number of experienced sevens specialists including James Rodwell, who set a new world record earlier this year after playing in 69 consecutive World Rugby Sevens Series’ tournaments, and Dan Norton, the series’ fourth-highest leading scorer of all time.
Mark Bennett, nominee for breakthrough player of the year following last season’s Rugby World Cup, and James Davies are named alongside Ollie Lindsay-Hague as well as Marcus Watson as the four 15-a-side players with previous Sevens experience.
With GB Sevens unable to compete in the World Series, the wider training squad of 27 players gathered at the end of May for a six-week intensive training period involving a programme of four international competitions.
Team GB Chef de Mission, Mark England, said: “It’s great to welcome rugby back into the Olympic family and announce our first squad of players in the sport for more than a century.
“These players have incredible pedigree in the sport and bringing them together to form the first ever Team GB sevens squads is very special and each of these 24 will now forever be a part of British Olympic history.
“Today’s (Tuesday) announcement also means our team for Rio 2016 is complete and, after four years of hard work, we now have a strong squad of athletes ready to do their country proud at Rio 2016, our largest British Olympic Team for over a quarter of a century.
“I also genuinely believe this is our most talented ever team and to qualify in 23 out of the 28 sports is a fantastic achievement. For the athletes the Olympic Games represent a lifetime of dedication in the pursuit of excellence and I wish them all the best over the comings weeks. Let’s bring home a new generation of heroes to inspire the nation.”
The men's head coach Simon Amor said: “At the recent tournament in Exeter, the crowd were chanting ‘GB’, something that has never been heard in the rugby sevens world before, and it was yet another reminder of how privileged we are to now be part of one Team GB and the largest sporting event in the world...
“They have fought and fought for places each day. It has been incredibly competitive and the group has become very close in a short space of time.
“We have named a talented and experienced squad of 12 players today which we believe offers the right combinations and complimenting skill sets needed to be successful in Rio. It has however been a 27-player effort and recognition must go to every player involved in the programme, as well as the hard working and exceptional management team.”
Women's captain Emily Scarratt added: “To wear the GB shirt and compete in the Olympics is a childhood dream that we are now, as a team, turning into reality.
“As a squad, we are looking forward to being among the first athletes to play rugby sevens on the world’s biggest sporting stage. I am immensely proud to be representing Great Britain and introducing women’s rugby to new audiences.”
Men's skipper Tom Mitchell said: “I am incredibly proud to have the opportunity to represent Team GB and to lead this group of boys, we have worked so hard to be at this point, not just in the last six weeks but over the years.
“The opportunity to showcase our event to the world and represent Team GB while we do it is something very special. I wasn’t expecting to react the way I did - when Simon told me I was in the squad, and that he wanted me to captain it, I didn’t have any words and am still trying to let it sink in.”
Great Britain men's squad:
Mark Bennett, Dan Bibby, Phil Burgess, Sam Cross, Alex Davis, James Davies, Ollie Lindsay Hague, Tom Mitchell (captain), Dan Norton, James Rodwell, Mark Robertson, Marcus Watson
Reserves: Luke Treharne, Ruaridh McConnochie
Great Britain women's squad:
Claire Allan, Abbie Brown, Heather Fisher, Natasha Hunt, Jasmine Joyce, Katy McLean, Alice Richardson, Emily Scarratt (captain), Emily Scott, Danielle Waterman, Joanne Watmore, Amy Wilson-Hardy
Reserves: Megan Jones, Kay Wilson