The Australian Women’s Sevens team will go into this weekend’s final round of the 2016-17 World Series tournament in France determined to take the final prize.
In what has been a season of ‘not quite right’ finishes, the 2016 World and Olympic champions have been playing well, but unable to push through the final games on the second day of tournament play.
The Aussies have definitely been the hunted this series after an historic 2016 and their key rivals have found some chinks in the armour and seized the opportunity to exploit them.
The Kiwis, having been in that same position last year, have turned the tables and re-emerged into 2017 as the team to beat.
Add to that the ever-present threat of Canada, the reigning Clermont Sevens champions, and we have what has been the ongoing trinity of the past several years leading the way in a much improved core group as the development of Women’s Rugby forges ahead.
That said, having a 14-point breathing space at the top of the table there is little doubt New Zealand will be officially crowned 2016-17 champions on Sunday in France.
POOL A New Zealand, USA, Ireland, Japan
While the Kiwis will dominate this group, the interest will be in the jostling for position, with quarter-final qualification the key goal on day one.
The USA finished sixth and the Irish seventh in Langford, both teams having won two of their three pool games.
While USA will be looking to finish the season on a high with a move up into the top four from its current sixth place in the standings, the Irish are on an upward trajectory in their development and won’t let this final tournament go without a fight.
POOL B Canada, Russia, England, Brazil
In its battle to defend this title, Canada may find its strongest challenge in Clermont-Ferrand comes from Russia.
Russia finished fifth in round five and is looking to jump Fiji in the standings and finish with an historic fourth placing for the series.
England has been an enigma all series and will be battling hard this weekend with a relatively inexperienced team, to salvage some pride and gauge some positives to carry forward into 2017-18 season in December.
Sitting eighth overall, there is little chance of it moving in either direction.
POOL C Australia, France, Fiji, Spain
Australia has a point to prove – it’s as simple as that.
This weekend will see the Aussies give everything they have left in their team tank to take this final title and secure second place at ahead of Canada.
With co-captain Shannon Parry back to full fitness and the return of Evania Pelite, Australia has both strength and pace across the park.
France had its best tournament of the year finishing fourth in Langford.
Despite losing convincingly to Australia in the Bronze medal final, it will again put up a strong case in the pool round to be placed among the final contenders on Sunday in front of a home crowd.
Saturday June 24
Australia vs Spain 9.28pm AEST
Sunday June 25
Australia vs Fiji 12.12am AEST
Australia vs France 3.18am AEST
Coverage via LIVE streaming at WorldRugby.org from 8pm AEST