The Australian Women’s Sevens team will go into this weekend’s penultimate HSBC World Series tournament in Langford, Canada with three key objectives in mind.
Primarily, to achieve its first title win this series; secondly to gain ground on the series leader New Zealand and finally to keep host nation Canada at bay given it sits just two points adrift in third place overall.
The Kiwis have a healthy 10-point lead with two rounds to go, so the Aussies need to not only win the Langford title but hope for some surprise results in the early rounds as well.
The Langford leg was a great success for both Canada Rugby and World Rugby in 2016 and the organisers will again be anticipating strong local support.
They would love nothing better than to have a home team win – an outcome that would very much upset the Aussie apple cart.
New Zealand, England, USA, Netherlands
New Zealand’s task in Langford is to hold off all challengers, at least until the final four on day two, protecting its 10-point buffer in the series standings with just one round to play after this weekend.
Given it has won three of the four rounds, conjuring memories of some dominant pre-2016 form, that task should not be a difficult one.
England has had a shocker of a season, while the USA looked to be gaining confidence in Sydney and Las Vegas but then fell away badly in Kitakyushu.
The Netherlands is the ‘wildcard’ team and will simply be out to gain valuable experience at this elite level for its ongoing development.
Canada, Russia, France, Brazil
Canada should perform strongly for its home fans looking to make up for last year’s quarter-final defeat at the hands of France.
While the women in the red and white have a solid contingent of experience, this season they have also unveiled an x-factor in the form of speedster Julia Greenshields.
France and Russia are both capable of throwing up a challenge to Canada but there is no doubt it will be a battle for subsequent placings behind the hosts.
Brazil is fighting for core series survival with Spain. It needs to get some wins on the board to enable the continuing development of the sport at home and across the region.
Australia, Fiji, Ireland, Spain
Australia has regained the leadership and power-play of co-captain Sharni Williams but is missing some key experience in Ellia Green, Emma Tonegato and Vani Pelite.
However, there is still a strong core group in this team and some promising new talent is also being given the opportunity to stretch their legs and the Aussies should have no trouble progressing through the Pool round.
It is day two where they will need to recall the blistering form of 2016 if they have any chance of taking this title.
Fiji had its best finish of the series in Japan finishing fourth and will be looking to improve on that success.
Ireland has the capability to challenge its opposition on any day but is still very much in a development phase as is the case with Spain.
Women’s Sevens World Series, Langford
Sunday May 28
Australia vs Spain, 4.36am AEST
Australia vs Ireland, 7.20am AEST
Australia vs Fiji, 10.04am AEST
Coverage via LIVE streaming at WorldRugby.org from 3.30am – 11am AEST