2017 Oceania 7s/RWC7s Women’s Qualifiers: Aussies Set To Challenge World Champion Black Ferns Sevens

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Rugby - Olympics: Day 3
Kayla McAlister in action for New Zealand during the Australia v New Zealand match on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Deodoro Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images).

The 2017 Oceania 7s/Women’s RWC7s Qualifiers will be held at the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji from the November 10-11. Eight of the top ranked Oceania Women’s team will fight it out for Regional supremacy. The Aussies are set to challenge the World Champion Black Ferns Sevens, as well as Fijiana, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

Furthermore, one qualifying spot is up the grabs to the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens. So, there is plenty on the line this weekend. The men and women competing, as the game of rugby sevens takes fans full attention.

Quick Tap: Origins of Rugby Sevens

The highest qualifying team outside; pre-qualified sides like Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, will earn that spot. Papua New Guinea is the favourite for that one opportunity. However, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands will challenge them hard for it.

Record Number of Women Playing the Sport

The number of Pacific Islands women taking up rugby in the Oceania region has increased rapidly. In a joint media release by Oceania Rugby and UN Women, Oceania Rugby President Richard Sapias explained its new working partnership with UN Women, global champion for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“For Oceania Rugby and World Rugby to work together with UN Women, through events such as the Oceania Sevens, presents an ideal opportunity to support women and girls in rugby”

Fijiana star players on Women playing rugby…

“We are currently rated in the top four in the world standings,” said Fijiana Rugby 7s captain Ana Roqica. “Ever since I started playing rugby, the crowd used to tell us that it’s a ‘men’s sport’… now they really love how the women have been playing rugby,” she said to oceaniarugby.com

“Rugby is my passion. Growing up in my village in Tavua, I used to play rugby with the boys and I’ve grown to love rugby,” said Fijiana 7s player Rusila Nagasau adding “It’s that coconut tree on the jersey that makes us proud, as it’s not just about myself but my family and my country.” Nagasau on oceaniarugby.com

Aussies Set To Challenge World Champions Black Ferns Sevens

The Aussies will be wanting to rekindle their form from the Olympic Games, to beat the Black Ferns. They have gone in to a certain twilight zone ever since that victory. But the Australian team are quality, and will ‘go for broke’ in Suva.

The Black Ferns Sevens are on a high, they have retained the HSBC Sevens Series crown, and are in line to defend their world champions title.

Sending their number one sides to the tourney is a testament to how serious they are heading into the new season. Not only will they be fighting for Oceania supremacy. Commonwealth title is up for grabs too. In addition, they have the HSBC Sevens Series and the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.

It will be a great opportunity too for Fijiana and Papua New Guinea to test combinations.

The tournament is broken into two pools of four teams:

Pool A – New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Tahiti

The Black Ferns Sevens have named an exciting squad, whilst welcoming back the incumbent Kayla McAlister (see main picture). She brings experience and adds depth which will add to the firepower in the side. Michaela Blyde and Ruby Tui will look to continue their good form with youngster Alena Saili.

Portia Woodman will be a crowd favourite, with her raw strength and speed. Sarah Goss adds leadership and a work rate that never seems to stop. Tayla Nathan Wong will be instrumental with those handy kicks and her excellent distribution, especially against the Aussies.

Papua New Guinea is strong favorite for that one qualifying spot to San Francisco. Joanne Lagona will spearhead their campaign; the lanky speedster, who has a very cunning step, will be a handful over the two-day tournament.

Meanwhile The Cook Islands and Tahiti could turn up and surprise us all with anonymity their biggest advantage.

New Zealand squad: Portia Woodman, Tenika Wilsson, Stacey Waaka, Ruby Tui, Michaela Blyde, Terina Te Tamaki, Alena Saili, Tyla Nathan Wong, Kayla McAlister, Sarah Goss, Theresa Fritpatrick, Gayle Broughton
Papua New Guinea squad: Lynette Aua, Chelsea Garesa, Mavis Mitaharo, Taiva Lavai, Marie Biyama,  Joanne Lagona, Fatima Rama, Geua Larry, Lynette Kwarula, Debbie Kaore, Freda Waula, Isi Goeva
Cook Islands squad: Maggie Naomi, Chantelle Schofield, Elizabeth Pera, Beniamina Koiatu, Dayna Napa, Wairakau Greig, Margaret Nena, Taria Arere, Marne Apoa, Marisa Marno-Anderson, Vaine Creig, Patricia Creig
Tahiti squad: Hivanui Feua, Florine Tevoro, Lyliokelani Tali, Fafita Pito, Tatiana Iotua, Averii, Auraa, Heani Monica Ori, Heimata Tomari, Eliana Taiti, Stephanie Perros, Naumi Bercegol

Pool B – Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga

The Australians have named a very formidable side including two debutants. Their victory at the Central Coast Sevens has laid the platform to retain their Oceania title in Suva.

Paige McGregor and Lauren Brown played well at the CC7s and were rewarded with MVP of the Tournament Emma Sykes.

These youngsters will add to the strength of the Aussies who have also brought in their World stars. It will be interesting how Fijiana counters them at home. Feisty Mahalia Murphy will be electrifying off the bench with Charlie Caslick and Emilee Cherry laying the foundations.

Fijiana have recalled their twinkle-toed winger Tima Ravisa. The Fiji backline needs to work together especially in the middle with Lavenia Tinai and Veniana Riwai. Miriama Naiobasali will run the fringes which will test Vani Pelite.

However, don’t count out the Samoans and Tongans as they will be out to challenge the big girls of Oceania Rugby.

Australia squad: Shannon Parry, Shari Williams, Vani Pelite, Emma Tonegato, Lauren Brown, Charlie Caslick, Alicia Quirk, Emma Sykes, Paige McGregor, Mahalia Murphy, Dom Du Toit, Emilee Cherry
Fijiana squad: Ana Maria Roqica, Asinate Savu, Ana Maria Naimasi, Rusila Nagasau, Lavenia Tinai, Tima Ravisa, Veniana Riwai,  Priscilla Siata, Mereula Torooti, Miriama Naiobasali, Asena Yalewalili, Naina Baleca
Samoa squad: Talia Leulalauloto, Christian Pio, Tiana Jones, Lalovi Leulalauloto, Masuimatanamaili Pauraisa, Christina Tagaloa, Leone Asovia Higgs, Easter Savelio, Apaula Enesi, Maria Ausai, Sapina Aukositino, Tafele Roma Malesi
Tonga squad: Lalana Maniana Hito, Pesalini Hehau, Tonga Tulaki, Salome Pahulu, Vainga Moimoi, Salom Vaenuku, Manusiu  Taua Kei, Taina Halasima, Katalina Lole Taliauli, Foloa Hufanga, Mela Manumua, Manu Havili.

Can the Aussies retain their Oceania Crown?

It will go down to the wire between the Black Ferns Sevens and Australia. The Kiwis are the reigning HSBC Sevens Series champ, while the Aussies are Olympic Gold Medalists. A battle of the ‘super powers’ and the Aussie’s are fully focused.

The Kiwis have been improving under Alan Bunting and they will want to add to their title collection. On form, LWOR will go with the Kiwis to claim the title, but …..don’t count out the Aussies.

Fijiana will likely finish third, with Papua New Guinea winning that qualification spot. However, if Samoa and Cook Islands do show up, it will be an interesting two days of rugby sevens.

Enjoy the Fijian hospitality ladies. bula

Stay tuned to LWOR for your full Lowdown of the Oceania Women’s Sevens tournament, from Friday November 10.

“Main image credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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