Aussies and Kiwis still at World Series forefront

by Jill Scanlon

As the sun went down in central France last month over the Stade Gabriel Montpied, the revelries began for the women in black who underlined their dominance of the 2016-17 World Series season with a final win in Clermont-Ferrand.

It is a testament to the evolving game of women’s rugby Sevens that New Zealand, a team that could not secure a tournament title in 2015-16, has secured all but one of them this season.

The reverse was the case for Australia, who struggled to hit anywhere near the heights of a golden 2016, finishing with three silver medals, two bronzes and a fourth place, ironically in Sydney.

It was perhaps fitting then that the last match of the 2016-17 season was between these two sides, who have been vying for supremacy for the past few years – intending no disrespect to Canada.

The key to ongoing success for both these top sides was also the evolution of the squads with new talent introduced almost seamlessly into an established dynasty of success.

The other contenders

The small Pacific island nation of Fiji has worked hard to have women’s rugby recognised at an elite level and has grown immeasurably over the past two years.

The proof of this was firstly in the fourth-place finidh Fijiana secured after the final round of the Series - its best ever season finish on the World Series, having finished eighth in 2015/2016.

Secondly, it was in the naming of young star Raijeli Daveua as Rookie of the Year.

 

Russia also moved up in the rankings, from seventh last season to fifth this year, with four top six placings compared to two in 2015/2016.

Ireland moved from twelfth to ninth, a testament to the development of its squad and growth in the confidence it has gained against some of the bigger fish in the pond.

Moving in the other direction, England takes the prize for dropping the farthest from fourth to eighth but was heavily affected by injury and absences due to XVs commitments. 

In the latter rounds of this Series, it became obvious that blooding new young talent was the name of the game for the Roses and they will look to bounce back well in a busy 2018 for Sevens.

More Competition

Ask any of the coaches and players and they will tell you that more competition is needed in the exploding world of women’s rugby.

Growth at the grassroots level is pushing the need for local expansion globally, but at the elite level six competitive weekends per year is not enough.

2018 will be the exception to the norm as there are two major events on the Sevens calendar - the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup.

How do we judge continued success?

Breathing the rarefied air of success never lasts for long – the Aussie women will attest to that having not won a single title from six tournaments in the 2016-17 season.

There may have been some expectation that once reaching the pinnacle, the successes would become easier.

It could be argued that post-Rio, the Aussies did keep achieving at greater heights when the off-field factors are taken into consideration.

The Sevens unit has raised the profile of the sport exponentially at a domestic level and has planted the seeds to nurture a new generation of young rugby players.

Tim Walsh has already capitalised on the depth of talent emerging from all corners of Australia’s sporting landscape having blooded several new players at the international level this year while maintaining a strong core of experience within the ranks of the squad.

Names like Sykes, Hayes, Du Toit, Staples and Friedrichs became a part of the growing story of the Aussie Women’s Sevens.

 

Impressive start to our #Aussie7s campaign in France, with a 41-0 defeat over Spain. #clermont7s

A post shared by Aussie7s (@aussie7s) on


There is one thing for certain in the world of women’s Sevens, the competition and standard is only going to grow and 2018 will be another watershed year for many developing Sevens nations as well as for the major players.

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