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2016 Rio Olympic hosts gear up for Gold Medal glory?

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irb.com and James Mortimer     18 Jan 2014     Getty Images

. Last year’s maiden Series brought a quantum leap forward in the Women’s Game and, while Australia beat New Zealand in a familiar-looking Cup climax in Dubai, the list of challengers is certainly growing.

Among the international women’s teams on a fast track improvement plan are Rio 2016 Olympic hosts Brazil, who started their campaign by reaching the Cup quarter-finals, where they met their match in reigning Series and world champions New Zealand.

Reaching that stage will have given them confidence, though, and shoots of growth are now starting to appear in playing numbers back home.

“For the past five years we’ve improved a lot," says captain Julia Sarda on this week's 'IRB Sevens World' TV show, which is airing on broadcasters around the world.

"Before, we had like eight to 10 teams and now we have more than 100. Lots of girls are starting to play and before we started to play when we were 20, now some young girls are 10 years old and playing regularly.

“We want to close the gap between us and the best in the world. And we want to show the IRB and our government that we are maturing. If you look to 2009 and the 2013 World Cup, you’ll see how the game has improved. In 2009 there were some teams that didn’t compete and now they are top eight. So these regular tournaments are making us better as international players.”

Sao Paulo to host World Series

For a long time Brazil's women have enjoyed dominance on South American soil. Now as the Olympic Games approach on their doorstep they have a driving ambition to transfer that competitiveness onto the world stage.

“For us, it’s an honour to represent South America and we are very excited because the Olympic Games are going to be in Brazil and it’s a chance for us to grow the game.

"I think the dream of every athlete is to play in the Olympics, to be an Olympic athlete, and now rugby has that chance. So for us it’s a dream come true.

And there is now to be a regular chance to do just that with Sao Paulo having been added as a destination on the IRB Women's Sevens World Series.

“It’s important not just to show Brazil, but to show the world that we can have an international rugby tournament in Brazil. It’s going to be good for our sport because they are investing in us and we have to show that Brazil can play rugby.”

Next up for Brazil's women will be a trip to Atlanta for the second round of the Women’s Series, where they will face Russia, Japan and Spain in Pool C on 15-16 February, before heading home to Sao Paulo for the 21-22 February event.