Another season of breathtaking sevens rugby begins this weekend in Dubai. The women’s competition opens our new season, with New Zealand out to retain their title. The 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series will be hosted at the 7evens Stadium from November 30 to December 1.
12 teams will compete at the 2017 Dubai Sevens title, with South Africa the invitational side for Round One of the women’s series. Japan returns after a season out, and in a cue towards to 2018 Commonwealth Games, England recall all their best sevens stars.
Plenty is at stake with the busy season up ahead.
Questions a plenty: Who will be the newest talent that will be unearthed this season? Can New Zealand maintain its dominance?
All that and more will unfold, as the season progresses. However, lets first get a Lowdown on the new season, and discuss ‘what to expect in Dubai’.
Women’s Competition Opens New Season
Under the warmth of the UAE sunshine, the Women’s competition will open the new International season of the World Rugby Series. Besides the Oceania Sevens and a scattering of fixtures, many teams have been preparing at their bases. And with the game of sevens continuing to reach new fans, the competition gets exciting from here on.
Not one team can be a runaway winner in today’s environment–even though some like New Zealand (NZ) or Australia set the benchmark. The gap is closing, and before the season ends, it will get even closer.
A truly congested women’s season is ahead for the majority of the 12 sides involved, with the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens to be ready for after the series ends.
HSBC 2017 Dubai Sevens: the Lowdown
Day One of the competition will see three pools of four teams leave their mark on the new season.
Pool A – New Zealand, France, United States, South Africa
New Zealand will have three World Rugby ‘Sevens Players of the Year’ in their squad. Kayla McAlister returns from giving birth to baby Stella, to join her fellow winner Portia Woodman, and newly crowned Michaela Blyde.
Sarah Goss will lead from the front, with Ruby Tui and young Alena Saili hoping to continue her form of last year. Firepower everywhere for the Kiwis, which will be hard to contain.
France will led by Fanny Horta and featuring one of the outstanding players for France in the recent World Cup XV’s Amdee Montserratt, Chloe Pelle, Cmille Crassineau; all add depth and vigor.
United States welcome Jordan Gray into their sevens fold, with Veronishka Grain leading a young but determined Ladyblitzbokke invitational side.
New Zealand squad: Ruby Tui, Alena Saili, Stacey Waaka, Niall Williams, Sarah Goss (captain), Michaela Blyde, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Gayle Broughton, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Portia Woodman, Kayla McAlister
France squad: Montserrat Amedee, Coralie Bertrand, Pauline Biscarat, Anna-Cécile Ciofani, Camille Grassineau, Fanny Horta (captain), Shannon Izar, Jade le Pesq, Marjorie Mayans, Carla Niesen, Seraphine Okemba, Chloe Pelle
United States squad: Jordan Gray, Ryan Carlyle, Sara Parsons, Nicole Heavirland (captain), Tia Blythe, Alev Kelter, Naya Tapper, Abby Gustaitis, Kelsi Stockert, Sarah Buonopane, Saskia Morgan, Megan Foster
South Africa squad: Megan Comley, Phumeza Gadu, Veroeshka Grain (captain), Jacqueline Kriel, Unathi Mali, Zintle Mpupha, Marithy Pienaar, Nadine Roos, Mathrin Simmers, Chane Stadler, Christelene Steinhoebel, Eloise Webb.
Pool B – Australia, England, Russia, Japan
The Aussies are trying to regain Olympic form, and with inaugural Uni7s domestic season just completed, they look keen. Their loss in Suva at the Oceania Sevens has given them time to mend mistakes.
Emma Tonegato returns with Paige McGregor the new Aussie starlet. They will be ruthless and hungry for a win. However, the English are the ones to watch.
England have practically named a star-studded side laced with experience. From Emily Scarratt to Alex Matthew to the speedy Lydia Thompson – they can certainly start the new season with a win.
Rusasia and Japan will provide the much needed competition in Pool B. Elena Zdrokova together with Baizat Khamidova and Daria Bobkova will be key for Russia. While Japan has a mix of local Talent and their Pacifica born players to excite the crowd.
Australia squad: Shannon Parry (co-captain), Sharni Williams (co-captain), Georgina Friedrichs, Dom du Toit, Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite, Charlotte Caslick, Mahalia Murphy, Emma Sykes, Page McGregor, Emilee Cherry, Cassie Staples
England squad: Claire Allan (captain), Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson, Katie Mason, Emily Scarratt, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Emily Scott, Chantelle Miell, Megan Jones, Holly Aitchison, Amy Wilson-Hardy
Russia squad: Daria Bobkova, Arina Bystrova, Anna Gavrilyuk, Baizat Khamidova, Marina Kukina, Snezhanna Kulkova, Daria Lushina, Alena Mikhaltsova, Daria Noritsina, Maria Perestiak, Kristina Seredina, Elena Zdrokova
Japan squad: Yume Hirano, Tomomi Kozasa, Ano Kuwai, Iroha Nagata, Chiharu Nakamura, Yume Okuroda, Mayu Shimizu, Sayaka Suzuki, Emii Tanaka, Yukari Tateyama, Honoka Tsutsumi, Chisato Yoko.
Pool C – Canada, Fiji, Ireland, Spain
Canada have named a 17-year old rising star in Tausani Levale. She joins the squad with the experienced Jen Kish beside another rookie, in Emma Chown.
The Canadians know how to handle the big guns in Australia and New Zealand. However, their own battle with Fijiana will be one to watch.
Fijiana will be banking on their experienced quartet to lead them through: Ana Maria Roqica, Rusila Nagasau, top try scorer from last season Tima Ravisa and top point scorer Lavenia Tinai. They will build on their top four finish from last season.
Ireland is Fiji’s nemesis and will be interesting to watch their contest. On the other hand, don’t ever count count Patricia Garcia and Barbara Pla’s Las Leonas.
This is an open pool, with any one of the other sides able to join Canada in the playoffs.
Canada squad: Brittany Benn, Emma Chown, Caroline Crossley, Hannah Darling, Julia Greenshields, Jen Kish, Tausani Levale, Ghislaine Landry (captain), Megan Lukan, Kayla Moleschi, Breanne Nicholas, Natasha Watcham-Roy
Fijiana squad: Lavenia Cavuru, Merewai Cumu, Rusila Nagasau, Ana Maria Naimasi, Litia Naiqato, Timaima Ravisa, Viniana Riwai, Ana Maria Roqica (captain), Pricilla Sauvavi Siata, Vasiti Kuma Solikoviti, Lavenia Tinai, Luisa Basei Tisolo
Ireland squad: Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Boles, Aoife Doyle, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Louise Galvin, Eve Higgins, Lucy Mulhall – captain, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Audrey O’Flynn, Hannah Tyrrell
Spain squad: Uri Barrutieta, Marina Bravo, María Casado (see below image), Iera Echebarría, Amaia Erbina, Anne Fernández de Corres, Patricia García, Sabina Hurtado, María Losada, Elisabet Martínez, Bárbara Pla, María Ribera.
Who will start the 2017/18 Season with a Bang?
All the women’s sides are on even level playing field in this opening round. On the one hand, the Kiwis looked slick in winning the Oceania Sevens. On the other – will Australia rise from the daze to be competitive?
There are many challengers to the Kiwi ‘Sevens Sisters’ title. Can the English rise to the occasion? and will Fijiana regain their fourth spot finish?
Watch all the action as it unfolds on worldrugby.org
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images