2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens: Black Ferns 7s favourites to retain title

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2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens: Black Ferns 7s favourites to retain title
KITAKYUSHU, JAPAN - APRIL 22: A general view during the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2016/17 Kitakyushu pool match at Kitakyushu Stadium on April 22, 2017 in Kitakyushu, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

The third round of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series will be held from April 21-22, in the Japanese city. The picturesque Mikuni World Stadium will be venue of the 2018 Kitakyushu Sevens, with Black Ferns 7s being clear favorites to retain title.

Fresh from their Gold Medal win at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the Kiwi ‘Sevens Sisters’ will be out to defend their title. The game has a strong following in Asia, so the atmosphere on Saturday should be electric.

Ten nations will join the hosts Japan, in trying to wrestle that title from the in form New Zealand girls. Newly promoted China will be the invitational side.

Pool A: Australia, Spain, Ireland, China

Pool B: New Zealand, France, United States, Japan

Pool C: Canada, Russia, England, Fiji

With Australia having secured both of the first two legs of the series, teams will want to ‘catch up’. With Canada and Russia even on points, a big move from those sides, or Team USA, it could shake up the competition ladder.

2018 Kitakyushu Sevens: The LOWDOWN

Pool A Draw:

Australia

The Aussies have lost three senior players after the Commonwealth Games final. Skipper Sharni Williams, speedster Elia Green and stalwart Charlotte Caslick, who have all missed the trip due to injury.

Interim coach John Manenti has called on three young stars to replace them, including debutants Yasmin Meakes and Lauren Brown. Paige McGregor makes up the traveling squad. Shannon Parry, Alicia Quirk, Vani Pelite, Emma Tonegato and Emilee Cherry are the only senior players left in the team.

If ever the Aussies need a ‘big one’ then it is now. This young brigade, with exciting new players like Emma Sykes and Dom Du Toit, have everything to gain at the 2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens.

Spain

The Patricia Garcia led Los Leonas side will be out to take more scalps against the big three. They have done the impossible, beating the Kiwis this year, so have high expectations. Barbara Pla, together with Marina Bravo and Iera Ichebarria will be their key players this weekend.

They have the majority of their core players available, and will be very competitive. Interesting pool to watch too, especially with the Irish improving in every tourney. Click here for full Leonas squad

Ireland

Rookies Eve Higgins, Kathy Baker and Katie Heffernan will be out to test their metal, against the best. Lucy Mulhall leads a strong side, with big hitters Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe and Stacey Flood.

Ashleigh Baxter and Hannah Tyrell, together with senior players Louise Galvin and Audrey O’Flynn, will key in their progress this weekend. Click here for full Irish squad

China

With a squad all under 25, the future of Chinese rugby looks bright. Fresh from their Series Qualifiers win in Hong Kong, they want to play against the best.

Spending a month in Fiji has paid good rewards for the Asians. They will compete to their very best this weekend. click here for Chinese squad

Pool B Draw:

New Zealand

The Kiwis will be gunning for back-to-back titles as they defend their Japanese crown. They have named their same side from the gold medal winning Commonwealth Games. Huia Harding is the 13th player, in a side who have class and professionalism right across the board.

Niall Williams, who was very impressive last weekend, will be leading the defensive charge, with game changer Kelly Brazier and Portia Woodman. However, the leadership by Sarah Goss always sets the tone with Gayle Broughton an Shakira Baker adding depth off the bench. Click here for full Sevens Sisters squad

France

A formidable squad named by the French, with ever reliable Fanny Horta again leading the side. Plenty of firepower to, with Majorie Mayans, Lina Guerin together with Jade Le Pesq and Camille Grassineau.

However, French fans must keep an eye on Montserratt Amedee and Chloe Pelle. Click here for full French squad

United States

Hope Rogers and Jordan Gray bring power to the side, in which the powerful Naya Tapper can always be trusted to finish with her big fend. Alev Kelter and Kirsten Thomas both figure in the midfield, along with Kelly Griffin.

An interesting tussle here in Pool B. It should be exciting to watch. Click here for full American squad

Japan

The experienced duo of Ano Kuwai and Chiharu Nakamura will lead the home side. They are eager to stay at the top, now that China will be joining the series next season. Click here for full Sakura squad

Pool C Draw

Canada

They will be out to take the English to task after their bronze medal loss last weekend. Ghislaine Landry, together with Julia Greenshields and Brittany Benn will lead the onslaught.

Youngsters Olivia Apps and Caroliune Crossley continue to shine, beside the impressive Hannah Darling. click here for full Canadian squad

Russia

Their game is always set around Baizat Khamidova, who continues to break DHL statistic records with her work rate. Elena Zdrokova and Alena Mikhaltsova will be the ones to watch too. Good depth in the Rusian side to test the big three.

England

Their bronze medal win in Gold Coast will boost their morale this weekend. Emily Scarratt will miss the tourney, with virtually the same squad from last week taking the field.

England Roses stars Alex Matthews and Lydia Thompson continue to impress with every outing. Natasha Hunt was impressive lat weekend so was Deborah Fleming. Jess Breach will be the one to watch.

Fiji

The Fijiana side learned by watching closely at the Games. Watching the Kiwis beat the Aussies last week, when they took the Olympic champs to the wire. They have a score early, to settle the score with the English and plenty of Fiji fans know the girls will be very competitive.

Young Miri Naiobasali will be one to watch with rover Lavenia Tinai. Watch the big hits of Priscilla Siata and the strength of Ana Naimasi. Ana Maria Roqica will lead the side againa, a side who finished fourth here last season. click here for full Fijiana squad

2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens: The Verdict

In Pool A, it will be the battle with the Irish and Spain that should determine the runner-up. The winner will no doubt be the Aussies but, with a relatively young side…. anything can happen.

The Kiwis have Pool B wrapped up, with either the French and American side hunting for maximum points. However, Pool C is much tougher to call, with every game determining the outcome. Fijiana and England are expected to shine (after their run on the Gold Coast). However, with Russia and France involved, there is enough ammunition to cause a boil-over.

For the majority though, the Kiwis can win here, but never count out the Canadians. A wounded Aussie 7s group might just have the enthusiasm left, to avenge their Commonwealth Games loss.

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Watch the thrills and spills of the 2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens ‘livestream feed’ on the World Rugby 7s Facebook page. Click Here for full Fixtures and results

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