This is the penultimate round of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series as we head to North America again, with the HSBC Langford Sevens at the Westhills Stadium from the Saturday May 27-28.
The hosts Canada are hot favorites, with Fijiana hoping to stay up in the top four. The Kiwis are fielding a depleted side, with the Aussies struggling to find rhythm. Like the Men’s game, the sport is evolving, with underdogs standing up to challenge the norm. The skill-set and general play has improved. Teams are building for next season, with players emerging from behind the known players in the squad.
Its exciting times for the game as followers can’t be sure as to ‘who will prevail’ when the tournament ends. Good for the game, good for competition and good for the players as it challengers them to keep striving to be the best.
HSBC Langford Sevens: Canada Hot Favorites
The Canadians are hot favorites at home, with the Kiwis fielding a young side due to commitments to the XV’s game. Australia are struggling to find form, and while they have their core side, they side will want to prove that their win in Sydney isn’t a one-off thing and that they can be consistent.
Buoyed by their Men’s side victory in Singapore and the way the game is in a growth phase in Canada, they want to give more back to the their loyal fans. The sport is literally unknown behind Ice Hockey and they need tournament victories to win new following. With a high quality side, built around the likes of Jen Kish and Ghislaine Landry, who are household names in Canadian Rugby.
Fijiana will be aiming for another top four finish, as only four points separates them with fifth placed Russia. They have grown this season, defying the odds. They have the smallest budget to work with but they punch above their weight. Tima Ravisa will be the key player, with Rusila Nagasau and young Miriama Naiobasali. However, don’t give an inch to their captain Ana Maria Roqica, as she will pounce like a hungry cat.
Check out the promo video for the HSBC Canada Women's Sevens coming up on May 27/28 in Langford!
Plenty to look forward to then, with the Kiwis hoping to maintain their 10 point lead in the standings for 2016/17. The Aussies want redemption as the Canadians look to win at home. Spain and Brazil have a battle of survival to fight with Russia pushing Fiji for fourth spot. Here is your Lowdown.
Canada Women’s Sevens: The LOWDOWN
Pool A – New Zealand, United States, England, Netherlands
The Kiwi sisters will be without Sarah Goss for the first time since the inception of the Women’s Sevens Series in December 2012. Goss and Portia Woodman and playmaker Kelly Brazier have all switched focus toward the June Internationals for the Black Ferns. In their absence, halfback Tyla Nathan-Wong will lead the young Kiwi side in Canada.
Top try scorer of the season Michela Blyde will spearhead their campaign. This will be a good time for players like Rebekah Coredero-Tufua, Sakira Baker together with Ruby Tui, Niall Williams and Katarina Whata-Simpskin to all step-up. They will need to help the exciting new talents in Jess Drummond, Alena Saili together with Crystal Meyers and Theresa Fritzpatrick all reach the Sevens Sisters high standards.
Kiwis Sisters squad: Tyla Nathan-Wong, Shakira Baker, Michela Blyde, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Jess Drummond, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Crystal Mayes, Cheyelle Robins Reti, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui, Katarina Whata-Simpkins, Niall Simpkins.
(Travelling reserves Lyric Faleafaga and Tayla Reti)
Olympians Jessica Javelet and Richelle Stephens return for the first time this season, along with new teenage sensation Mata Hingano. A Womens Junior All American is poised for her series debut, injecting some breath of fresh air into the squad. Also, back in the squad are Cheta Emba and Kate Zachary. Alev Kelter, who has been outstanding all season will be their go to girl together with Kristen Thomas, along with the speedy Naya Tapper.
Eagles Sevens squad: Cheta Emba, Kristen Thomas, Kate Zachary, Nicole Heavirland, Richelle Stephens, Alev Kelter, Naya Tapper, Kelly Griffin, Kelsi Stockert, Joanne Faavesi, Mata Hingano, Jessica Javelet.
The English have struggled all season but they aren’t panicking yet, as they are building for the future. With majority of their players tied up with Women’s Rugby World Cup preparations their young guns have stepped up. It has taken time for them to settle in, but the girls are slowly progressing. Heather Fisher, Alice Richardson together with Joanne Watmore and Natasha Brennan; who are now the seniors in the squad, will be leading their campaign in Langford.
English Roses squad: Heather Fisher, Alice Richardson, Laura Cattell, Joanne Watmore, Katie Mason, Emily Wood, Deborah Fleming, Kelly Smith, Chantelle Miel, Charlotte Clapp, Holly Aitchison, Natasha Brennan
The Dutch side come in as the invitational side here at Langford. They have been in the World Series before, and the Sascha Werlich coached side will use this opportunity to build for the Rugby World Cup Sevens next year. Jannickie Ijidens will be one of the players to watch, with Nikki Wijers and Erin Arendse. The Dutch are mixing the young and the old, to build for the future here in Canada.
Netherlands squad: Johanna Van Rossum, Anne Hielkert, Jannickie Ijdens, Nikki Weijers, Pleuni Kievit, Linde Van Der Velden, Erin Arendse, Willemijin Ter Avest, Marit Bakker, Jordan Ripley Heil, Anjelina Stolk, Bodil Van Wijnbergen
Pool B – Canada, Russia, France, Brazil
Bianca Farella (see main picture) and Brittany Benn have had an outstanding this season, along with Hannah Darling and Julie Greenshields. They have blended well with seasoned campaigners in Jen Kish, Ghislaine Landry and Megan Lukan. The squad are settled, and will challenge the New Zealand side hard on their home turf.
Canadian squad: Jen Kish, Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Hannah Darling, Julia Greenshields, Ashley Steacy, Charity Williams, Natasha Watcham-Roy, Caroline Crossley, Megan Lukan, Breanne Nichols, Brittany Benn
The French have recalled captain courageous Fanny Horta, to again lead Les Bleus here in Canada. They have made four changes, keeping in mind that the Sevens World Cup is next year. Marjorie Mayans, together with Camille Grassineau and Pauline Biscarat will need to bring their A-game if they want to reach the semifinals.
French squad: Fanny Horta, Jennifer Troncy, Chloe Pelle, Camille Grassineau, Elodie Guiglion, Shannon Izar, Pauline Biscarat, Monteserrat Amedee, Carla Niessen, Lenaig Corson, Serafine Okemba, Marjorie Mayans
Russia likes to play the ‘Russian Roulette’ on occasion–as they can be their worst enemy. They have a very formidable squad, with hardworking forwards led by Baizat Khamidova. They need go-forward ball to release the likes of Alena Mikhaltsova, who has been incredible all season. However, star playmaker Elena Zdrokova is one to watch closely.
Russian squad: Marina Petrova, Ekaterina Skoromko, Alena Mikhaltsova, Baizat Khamidova, Marina Kukhina, Anna Minislamova, Maria Prestiak, Daria Lushina, Anna Gavyrilyuk, Arina Bystrova, Elena Zdrokova, Daria Noritsina
The Brazilians continue their little battle with Spain. Whoever finishes better in Canada, has the upper hand going into the final round in Clermont. The battle for core-status survival is on, and Paula Ishabashi and her girls are going all out to finish on a high this weekend. Beatriz Futoro, Edna Santini and Haline Scarut have the weight of their football-mad nation on their shoulders, so LWOR hope they can bring more support to the sevens game, with their exciting style.
Brazilian squad: Maria Behrendt, Luiza Campos, Paula Ishabashi, Raquel Kochnann, Beatriz Futoro Mauhlbauer, Edna Santini, Haline Scarut, Isadora Cerullo, Claudia Teles, Bianca Dos Santos Silva, Cleice Lopes, Aline Ribeiro
Pool C – Australia, Fiji, Ireland, Spain
Australian co-captain Sharni Williams returns for the Aussies, after missing the trip to Japan, with Booke Walker and Tiana Penitani. The injury hit girls from the ‘Land Downunder’ finished third, just edging out the feisty Fijiana side whom they will face again in Pool play. Cassie Staples will debut for the Aussies, after some good performances with the development Aussie Pearls side.
Elia Green and Evania Pelite will sit the tournament out due, to knee injuries they picked up in Kitakyushu while Emma Sykes and Mahalia Murphy are rested. Thankfully, Williams and Shannon Parry are here in Canada, before focusing on the XV’s game in June. It hasn’t been a good season for the Aussies but they will try to redeem themselves here in Langford.
Aussie squad: Sharni Williams, Demi Hayes, Shannon Parry, Tiana Penitani, Chloe Dalton, Georgina Frederichs, Charlotte Caslick, Dominique Du Toit, Emilee Cherry, Cassie Staples, Shanice Parker
Fijiana will be without their top points scorer Lavenia Tinai, who popped her shoulder out in training few days before their departure to Canada. TheFiji women’s side are in the top four and they want to maintain that standing to qualify automatically to the RWC7’s San Francisco.
Ana Maria Roqica will again lead the side, with Rusila Nagasau and the twinkle-toed Tima Ravisa. Vilisi Vakaloloma will be on debut; replacing the incumbent Tinai.
Fijiana Squad: Rusila Nagasau, Tima Ravisa, Viniana Riwai, Ana Maria Roqica, Priscilla Siata, Talica Vodo, Miriama Naiobasali, Raijeli Daveua, Ana Maria Naimasi, Aloesi Nakoci, Vilisi Vakaloloma, Merewai Cumu
The Irish; like the feisty Fijiana side, will push both the Aussies and all other teams ‘all the way’. Battling hard for those bragging rights, and which one of the sides will finally take down the Olympic champion Aussies, after pushing them all season long. Stacey Flood will be the key distributor, along with Lucy Mulhall.
Irish squad: Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Keohane, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Hannah Tyrell, Stacey Flood, Louise Galvin, Lucy Mulhall, Sene Naoupu, Kim Flood, Katie Heffeernan, Chloe Blackmore, Audrey O’Flynn
The Spanish have a battle of survival with the Brazilians heading to the series finale in Clermont. They need a quarter-final place finish or higher, to maintain their core-status next season. Barbara Pla, Patricia Garcia and Maria Casado have to step up to lead this young, energetic side out of the relegation zone. A standout is Iera Ehebarria, whose work ethic on the flanks could come in handy, in piling those on some points to survive.
Los Leonas squad: Barbara Pla, Maria Ribera, Patricia Garcia, Maria Casado, Iera Ehebarria Fernandez, Amaia Erbina Arana, Barbara Garcia Ordonez, Nerea Agruirre, Olivia Fresneda, Uribarri Barrutieta, Maria Ahs, Maria Losada.
Langford Sevens – Who is Going to Perform?
Can the depleted Kiwi Sisters side maintain their series lead? On paper, they can as the Aussies are struggling to find rhythm. On the other hand, Sydney Sevens winners Canada are on home soil and they want a win at home. However, the United States and Fiji continue to make big in-roads, as will the French with the return of Fanny Horta….but don’t count out the Russians.
The lowdown is, it is “All to play for” in Langford.
Follow all the results here on Last Word on Rugby, and the livestream via worldrugby.com
“Main photo credit”