Australia's Chloe Dalton runs into score at the Rio Olympics.
Australia's Chloe Dalton runs into score at the Rio Olympics. DEAN LEWINS

Gold medal-winning women out to impress at home

IN four short years the Australian women's rugby sevens team has achieved it all.

Coming off a World Series win and Olympic gold medal in 2016, the players could be forgiven if they were a bit sluggish at the start of this year.

They were disappointed with their loss in the final of the World Series opening round in Dubai and with the Sydney Sevens tournament starting on February 3, they feel it's the perfect time to move on from the past and launch themselves into the next phase.

"Personally I found it challenging coming off Rio. Winning a gold medal, how many bigger goals can you set than that?" said Chloe Dalton.

"What we've done as a team is sat down and reassessed and worked out what our new goals are going to be.

"We have Tokyo 2020 but it's quite a long time away. Breaking it down into shorter-term goals, I think Sydney is going to be a massive part of that."

Having swept the major titles of 2016, it's fair to say a target now sits squarely on Australia's back.

But they don't mind being the hunted and are hellbent on a big performance in Sydney, which starts with games against Brazil, Ireland and Fiji.

"Being gold medallists there is always going to be that expectation now. We're aware of that but we want to make sure that our focus is on executing and getting through our processes," Dalton said.

"We know that those other countries are chasing us so we just need to ensure that we're not going to be complacent.

"Getting people down to watch some of those pool games, particularly playing in such a big stadium, it would be awesome to be able to get bums on seats.

"They purposely put the games around 1, 4 and 7pm, so hopefully when people finish work on the Friday arvo they can get down for those two games."

This will be the first time the side has taken part in an official competition on home soil, after playing exhibition matches against Ireland during last year's Sydney Sevens.

Coach Tim Walsh brushed off any notion of the home crowd adding pressure, stressing that their own standards created the expectation.

"Pressure is always there. We addressed this quite intently with the Olympics and pressure is something that you put on yourselves," he said.

"We're a very process-driven, performance-based team. We go out there to enjoy ourselves and we want to walk off without any regret and if we do all those things the by-product will be winning.

"The pressure of winning is the pressure of performing to our best and that's where the pressure comes from."

Australian's women's Sydney Sevens fixtures, February 3 (times AEST)

12.36pm: Australia v Brazil

3.18pm: Australia v Ireland

6pm: Australia v Fiji

Pool A: New Zealand, Canada, France, Papua New Guinea

Pool B: Australia, Fiji, Ireland, Brazil

Pool C: Russia, England, Spain, USA


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