ATLANTA, USA – Prior to the third leg of the 2015/2016 HSBC Womens Sevens World Series (WSWS) kicking off in Atlanta this weekend, we noted in our analysis and preview, the difficult position the USA Women’s team and coach were in. We stated that “...a mid-series coaching change has happened on the men’s circuit, but it rarely happens on the women’s circuit and creates loads of unnecessary challenges.” The USA responded very well to the challenge but they still couldn’t stop the new unstoppable force in women’s rugby. Let’s review:
USA Women’s Eagles 7s:
The Eagles and new head coach Richie Walker had a tournament that was a huge success, all things considered. The USA got a chance to stretch their legs early with their first match being against a feisty but defeat-able Spain. The Eagles handily defeated Spain 24-0. They then defeated Japan to confirm their place in the Cup playoffs with a solid performance in as they cruised to convincing win of 33-12. They then had the pleasure or displeasure of playing the reigning series champion New Zealand Black Fern 7s. The USA, to the shock of many upset the Black Ferns as being cheered on by the hometown fans played a difference in the Eagles 12-5 victory.
On Day 2, the Eagles found themselves in the Cup playoffs. They drew Australia, the new unstoppable force in Womens’ 7s. The Aussies had won the last two tournaments and the Eagles hoped to deny them a third straight. That was not to be as the Aussies showed their class and shifted into a gear the Americans didn’t have, winning 22-5. It was tough way to start the day and the challenge didn’t get any easier for Eagles as they were now in the Plate semi-finals. In their first match following the loss the Eagles took on up and coming Fiji in the Plate semi-final and let loose some frustration as the crushed Fijiana 38-0. The win sent them to the Plate final match against Russia, who were having their own successful tournament and wanted to leave with some hardware. In this battle of political superpowers on the rugby pitch, the USA was the more dominant side and walked away winners, 19-7.
The first tournament in the Richie Walker era ended with hardware. It was a more successful start to coaching on the series circuit than predecessors Ric Suggit or Jules McCoy, on the series. What this means going forward for the program is anybody’s guess. We can only wish for the best for both the coach and players. We will see how this all plays out before we examine effects of the chaos in the background.
For a long time the clear leader in womens’ rugby, 7s and 15s, were New Zealand. However, just as that crown was lost in 15s to England, it is being roughly snatched from the Kiwis buy their old rivals the Aussies.
The Aussie womens’ program is an excellent example of the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) combining with the Australian Rugby Union. As well as athletes that have come through the ARU system, there have been a number identified through the talent ID program as they had brought in athletes like a sprinter and a basketball player as well as a skilled top level touch rugby player. It is now paying huge dividends for the women’s program.
In Atlanta, it was a very strange first day. Powerhouse New Zealand and Australia lost in pool play to the USA and England respectively. The early losses ending putting the two titans on separate sides of the bracket. We mentioned how the USA was knocked out of cup play by Australia, well New Zealand got their revenge by defeating England in the Cup semifinal. This set up the two powerhouses meeting in the final which was won by the Aussies in a close one, 24-19.
England were able to bounce back from the loss to New Zealand and redeem themselves winning a hard fought match against Canada to finish third place. We already discussed how the USA dominated Fiji to win the Plate. Ireland continued to make great strides in the development of their womens’ 7s as they defeated Japan to win the Bowl.
Final standings were
Second: New Zealand
The next leg will be in Langford, Canada this upcoming weekend. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.