With only a week to go until the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series resumes again in Sydney, four teams will get an early run-out in the Women’s Fast Four Tournament in Hamilton, an invitational event which takes place during the men’s series event at FMG Stadium.
World champions and series leaders New Zealand will play a tournament on home soil for the first time and will be looking to extend their run of 39 matches unbeaten in global tournaments when they face RWC Sevens 2018 runners-up France, England and China in a round robin format before play-off matches determine the final rankings.
China are unrecognisable from the side that played in the last round of the series in Dubai at the end of November.
In fact, only two players remain in Chen Ming, who assumes the captaincy, and Wang Yeuyeu with Lu Yuanyuan the only other player in a young squad with any series experience.
Six of the players are aged 20 or under as China continues to expose promising young players to world-class opposition
China won the Challenge Trophy at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens
The Black Ferns Sevens welcome back Niall Williams after she missed their victory in Dubai through injury, although Kelly Brazier has been ruled out with a calf injury, allowing Rhiarna Ferris to come into the squad for a potential debut in the black jersey.
“We’re really excited, to wear the black jersey at home is a massive honour and we can’t wait to show the New Zealand public how we play,” said captain Sarah Hirini (nee Goss), whose side have been drawn with England and France at the HSBC Sydney Sevens next weekend.
“Any time we put that (the black jersey) on, obviously expectations come with that; you don’t ever want to lose in it. The girls have been working really hard and we’re looking forward to being able to play with the men’s teams this weekend.
“It’s going to be really tough. We played France in the World Cup final and they are an extremely talented team. They go all out for the full 14 minutes, so it is going to be tough against them.
“It’s the same with England and China, we’re pretty stoked that we are able to play those teams at home because we want to express how we think sevens is going at the moment and those are probably the teams that are awesome at it.”
England coach James Bailey has lost the services of Olympians Emily Scarratt and Natasha Hunt as well as rising star Jess Breach after they signed contracts for England 15s, while Ellie Kildunne is missing through injury.
This, though, has allowed Megan Jones to make her return following injury last season and Lizzie Adam to make her international debut for England in Hamilton.
“The introduction of a new women’s invitational tournament this season is not only a brilliant step forward for the development of the women’s game but it’s also a great opportunity for us to get some competitive game time before the next World Series leg in Sydney,” said Bailey.
“New Zealand, France and China are all very tough sides so the level of competition is going to be high and there will undoubtedly be a lot that we’ll be able to take out of this tournament and apply to the rest of the season as we continue to grow and develop.”
This is a sentiment echoed by France manager François Duboisset.
“Playing the Black Ferns is always an honour, a great opportunity to measure oneself against the best,” Duboisset said.
THE PERFECT CHALLENGE
“New Zealand is the final destination for rugby. It’s a country that is totally dedicated to the sport and sometimes innovative in its organisation. I think New Zealand thought we were a team that was not easy to deal with. It is with great pleasure that we will take up the challenge.
“This will allow us to absorb the time difference, to train on site and to prepare for Sydney, which is still our number one objective. The Hamilton tournament is a preparation tournament. We are almost arriving in mid-season, so this will allow us to make an assessment on our performance.
“These are ideal conditions to approach the Sydney tournament and, of course, to gain experience for the second half of the season.
“Let’s remember that we are in an Olympic qualifying year, what better way to prepare than to face the world champions and the best nation?”
While France have travelled to Hamilton with a squad brimming full of experience with the likes of captain Fanny Horta, Marjorie Mayans, Camille Grassineau and Shannon Izar, their first opponents China.
Orgfinal Article : https://www.world.rugby/sevens-series/news/391695