NEW YORK, NY – Okay, the fast version of Rugby is getting into to gear and we’re trying to keep you up to speed. With that, here is a broad look at the 2016-2017 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, which kicks off this Thursday in Dubai. Below we have a look at the sides and story lines we expect to be prominent this season.
World Rugby has done the women so more justice this year, giving them six tournaments. It is still not as much as the men, but it is an improvement. Here is the schedule for this upcoming season:
- Dubai, December 1-2
- Sydney, February 3-4
- Las Vegas, March 3-5
- Kitakyushu (Japan), April 22-23
- Langford, British Columbia, May 27-28
- Clermont-Ferrand (France), June 24-25
All tournaments will be streamed via World Rugby.
11 nations are competing as the core sides. At each tournament, an additional side will be invited to compete. The core nations are Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, USA, France, Russia, Fiji, Spain, Ireland, and Brazil. A 12th non-core team will be added to each tournament, to make up the numbers. These teams have to win qualifier tournaments of their own for the opportunity to likely be cannon fodder.
The series had belonged to New Zealand… until last season, that is. Australia won 3 of 5 tournaments and came in 2nd in another. The Aussies are also the defending Olympic champions, having done the #HSBC7s/Olympics double. The squad is led by the reigning World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, Charlotte Caslick, as well as a trio of dangerous try-scorers in Emilee Cherry, Chloe Dalton and Ellia Green.
The Aussies are trying to do a back to back, a feat only completed by New Zealand. The challenge to match the achievement of their ancient foe will push the Aussies and make them the favorites to win this season.
In every tournament this season, it is likely that the Aussies will have to go though two, if not three, of the following teams that are pushing hard to be the series champions in the knock-out round: New Zealand (of course!), England, Canada, USA, and France.
Canada and England each won a tournament last year, yet they both finished third and fourth respectively behind New Zealand. The Black Ferns managed to be the consistent side outside of the series’ champions. So despite not winning a tournament, they managed to make at least the quarterfinals of each tournament and also second in the Olympics, for good measure. Black Fern star Kelly Brazier stated, “(Former assistant coach) Allan Bunting is now our head coach and while we’ll be sticking with the same sort of things, we’ve also got a few new faces in the squad so it’s exciting to see what they can offer.” So expect as much danger but from a few new faces.
Meanwhile, Canada coach John Tait believes increasing their talent pool also makes them dangerous. “We put some time into identifying athletes over the past few years to keep challenging for spots in our senior program and a few of those athletes will be competing for series selection in this season ahead. We have to have that kind of competition in our training environment as we still are building a pathway to support that growth otherwise. It’s really exciting to be a part of helping all the athletes develop and push each other to better each day.” Depth will be important with players like captain and stalwart Jen Kish missing due to injury.
England are pushing to win the series but also want to win one of the auto-qualification spots for the 2018 Rugby World Cup 7s. “Our focus this season is very much to qualify for the 2018 World Cup through the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series,” said Head Coach Simon Middleton. “We have a mix of new players and returning Olympians within the squad. It is important that we invest game time with the new players as tournament experience is critical if we are going to be competitive on the world’s biggest stages down the line.” Getting ahead of the top 3, will not be easy for England.
The USA and France will have to show some drastic improvement if they hope to become Top 3 material. We will have more information on the USA later this week… France have won back to back European Grand Prixies but the two legs were a scrappy affair and they had to knock off a feisty Russia. They would need to reach the Cup semi-finals at least twice this season in order to be considered a success. The USA lacked consistency issues and an ability to pull it together at crunch time. If the @USAWomenEagles can win just one of the tourney legs, it would probably be the USA 7s in Las Vegas. They consistently over-preform in front of their home crowd.
The bottom group is Spain, Fiji, Russia, Ireland, and Brazil. All of these sides have succeeded in between the end of the last World Series and the start of this season… Russia remain thereabouts. They still haven’t taken the major step up that they need to and we will wait to see if they can do so, this season… Spain have improved in 15s but it has been to the detriment of their 7s program. So it will be a interesting season for them… Iliesa Tanivula-coached Fiji have moved from strength to strength. Their progression to the 8th-ranked side is not a surprise. They finished last season strong and will be a dangerous proposition this season… Finally, Ireland and Brazil both won their way into core team status in August. Playing well enough to keep that core status will be important to the long-run success of both programs.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.