Sevens Seven: What we need to know about Dubai
The New Zealand Women’s Sevens team has been named for the first leg of the 2014/2015 Series, and straight away we switch attention from the All Blacks to the championship defending ‘Sisters’.
Coach Sean Horan named his squad yesterday.
Australia, Canada and the United States have already named their squads.
So what has been happening?
Sevens competition throughout New Zealand is booming like never before, with local unions playing their own tournaments while Taupo hosted a new development contest recently – while the maiden Pasifika Aotearoa Sevens was played out this weekend with nearly 30 teams.
Globally it has been a similar theme, with Euro Grand Prix style competitions and tournaments in Africa and Asia generating more interest.
The major international tournament of late, albeit not Sevens, was the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
This has relevance as many nations, such as the Canadian Women, have called upon these resources with the World Cup runners-up calling up six players.
New Zealand has also relied on their XVs stalwarts.
Who won the last one?
The ‘Sisters’ claimed the 2013/2014 tournament with minimal room to spare after a vastly improved Australia pushed their trans-Tasman rivals all the way.
New Zealand won three legs, the Aussies two, while Canada and England rounded out the season’s top four.
Australian Emilee Cherry claimed both the leading points and try scoring crowns.
Are there not some new teams this season?
Fiji, France, China and South Africa are the new admissions.
China will play New Zealand first up in Dubai, with the Chinese Women the dominant Sevens power in Asia.
The new faces?
Morgan Morrow, from Bay of Plenty, has a fine resume in touch rugby, and attracted the attention of Horan at the Sevens tournament in Taupo recently.
Horan admitted the teacher was on the radar but strong displays near by the Big Lake forced the selector’s hand.
While Charlotte Scanlan, a member of the Northern Kauri team that claimed Taupo, also caught the eye with her league background giving her the required impact.
Chances (this season)?
The two-time series winners and reigning World Cup Sevens Women’s champions will fancy their chances, but the rate of development around the planet will have them on guard.
Australia, England, Canada, Russia, United States, France and Fiji have shown increased skills and tactics over the years, while South Africa’s Women have been incredibly busy in their quest to match the top teams.
There are six legs this year, with the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, US, Canada, England and Netherlands the destinations.
The Olympics (and after?)
The top four teams from this year’s series automatically qualify for the Summer Games in Rio, with a further six nations being determined via regional qualification and a play-off match.
Brazil automatically qualifies as a host.
The big news of late was the announcement that the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will feature a Women’s event, further headlining the growth of the sport.