Australia will be looking for a title win in Las Vegas to back up its USA7s win last season and more importantly, prove that Sydney was nothing more than a misstep
Round three of the HSBC World Series this weekend could be the turning point for many of the teams looking to be in contention for title honours.
The Aussies are keen to go back-to-back in the World Series but know that New Zealand is determined to right the ship and return to the dominance it knew pre-2016.
But the fact is there are other contenders looking to spoil the party for these top two teams and the growth in Women’s Sevens has seen improvement from a range of nations which makes predicting a likely outcome very difficult.
Canada impressed in Sydney taking the big prize but not before the USA surprised the crowds and pundits alike with an unexpected berth in the Cup Final, off the back of an 11th place finish in Dubai.
So will the bright lights of Vegas blind some of the up-and-comers?
Will the USA capitalise on the support from the big home crowd expected at Sam Boyd Stadium to back in its Sydney performance?
Or will the Aussies underline their intentions for this series in the best way they know how?
Canada, France, Russia and Argentina
Canada has returned to a top three spot in the rankings – a very familiar place over the past few years – but will now be looking to go a step further, separated from Australia by just two points and from New Zealand by six.
To proceed to the business end of the tournament the Maple Leafs need to get past France and Russia with Argentina making up the pool as the invitational side for this region and not really expected to trouble the other three.
France’s performances, while not giant-killing, have been consistent over the first two rounds. Russia stumbled badly in Sydney off the back of a strong performance in Dubai and will be aiming to get back in the race to the top.
USA, Fiji, Ireland, Spain
The consistency in performance from Fijiana over the first two rounds has been a big positive for the Pacific team, and if this trend continues it could present a strong challenge to the USA.
The Irish are also showing steady improvement in the development of their game and will be looking to cause an upset in the opening match of the tournament when it takes on the host.
Spain is still finding its way at the elite level but is gaining a reputation for challenging the more experienced teams and so can never be completely written off.
New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, England
It is rare for the Tasman neighbours and traditional rivals to be grouped together and compete on the first day, but the surprising results for both in Sydney have led to that exact scenario in Las Vegas this weekend.
While every game is unpredictable, most would expect Australia and New Zealand to top this group.
England will be a dangerous opponent after a poor Sydney outing which saw it finish in 10th place after an historic first day of two losses and one win – a far cry from its fourth place finish in Dubai.
Leading the pack in the standings are New Zealand, Australia and Canada, but the inconsistency and therefore unpredictability in performance of the other expected contenders throws the pool round of each Women’s tournament open to possible upsets – and this weekend will be no different.
All eyes will be on Russia, England and the USA to see which version of each runs out onto the field in Sam Boyd Stadium.
Play begins at 3.17am (aedt) on Saturday with USA and Ireland the first teams to kick off the action.
Australia will play England in its first Pool game at 5.07am (AEDT) and will be fully focused on getting a significant win to start its campaign.
The Women’s tournament can be viewed via LIVE stream at worldrugby.org