Rugby Sevens: England women launch Rio 2016 campaign

Rachael Burford
Rachael Burford has 51 caps for England and was part of this summer's World Cup-winning team

World Cup winner Rachael Burford says the England women's rugby side carry high hopes for Rio 2016 qualification.

England, who made 20 players professional this summer, are Great Britain's representatives for the first rugby sevens qualifying stage.

"Since we've gone full time, there is big expectation on us," Burford said.

"We're just very pleased to be in a position where we are full time and train day in, day out. So looking on to Rio is the ultimate goal."

England won the World Cup in August and later that month Thurrock centre Burford, 28, was named as one of 20 players who would receive a central Rugby Football Union contract.

Women's World Rugby Sevens Series
Dubai, 4-5 DecemberCanada, 18-19 April
Brazil, 7-8 FebruaryEngland, 15-16 May
USA, 14-15 MarchNetherlands, 22-23 May

The initial aim of the squad is to finish in the top four of the World Rugby Sevens Series, which would secure Olympic qualification for Britain and starts in Dubai this week.

England were selected to represent Great Britain in the initial qualifying stage but, should they fail, GB can also qualify if Wales or Scotland earn a place through a European selection tournament next year.

"Growing up it was always about the World Cup. That has been our pinnacle," Burford told BBC Essex.

"Never once did I think rugby would be in the Olympics. I remember very clearly in 2009, we were on tour in Canada when we heard the news it had been selected and it was brilliant.

"We couldn't believe that our sport was now an Olympic sport. It's crazy how quickly it has come round.

"It's going to help grow the game. It's a really exciting time for women's rugby. And sevens is a really good opportunity for people to try it out."

England, Wales and Scotland have yet to set out their squad selection process should Britain qualify for Rio.