Dutch women point to Sevens Olympic potential
While Spain turned heads in the men's competition at the London Sevens, reaching a first ever IRB Sevens Cup quarter final, the Netherlands women's team scaled even greater heights.
Playing in the third edition of the IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup, the Dutch ladies reached a first ever Cup final in IRB-sanctioned competition, beating reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Australia in the process.
In the semi final against Australia the Dutch were 12-0 down but managed to claw one score back before half time, turning the match around and setting up that first final.
"I'm very proud of the team, we really played very well and very happy," said coach Gareth Gilbert.
"We're very fit and that's what counted for us in the end. In the second half we held onto the ball, that was the tactic and it worked," he added.
Those levels of fitness owe a lot to the fact that the Netherlands women's Sevens team is made up of full-time athletes - a little-known fact and one which speaks volumes for the way Sevens has grown since it was admitted into the summer Olympics for 2016.
"What we're seeing here is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of the programme. The progress we've seen over the last year with these players has been unbelievable.
"A lot of these ladies have stopped their jobs and, in some respects, put their family lives on hold. They are training 20 hours a week, which they have to do in order to be able to compete like this against the bigger nations."
The Dutch were beaten in the final by hosts England, for whom Michaela Staniford and Joanne Watmore were again outstanding, but their accession to that stage for the first time is a sure sign of the future.
"Going full time has made a massive difference," added Gilbert. "To be playing in a Cup final in an IRB tournament is amazing and I would expect much more to come."
Video highlights: London women's Sevens