2019 HSBC Sydney Sevens: Teams aim to Challenge, but Black Ferns 7s are side to Beat

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2019 HSBC Sydney Sevens: Teams aims to Challenge, but Black Ferns 7s are side to Beat
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 27: Gayle Broughton of New Zealand runs with the ball in the Cup semi final match against Canada during day two of the 2018 Sydney Sevens at Allianz Stadium on January 27, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Round Three of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series will be held in Sydney this weekend. Like the Dubai Sevens, both the women’s and men’s tournaments will be competing side-by-side; with the ladies starting a day earlier on Friday February 1.

Sydney has always proved to be a great stop on the World Series circuit. Warm…..well is it Aussie so the conditions will be a test – as much as the competition will.

The Black Ferns 7s will be hoping to continue their unbeaten run; which is at 40 plus games undefeated. WOW! They are the team to beat after their impressive outing at home, walking away with the Fast Four title at the Hamilton Sevens.

All teams aim to challenge, but Black Ferns 7s are the side to beat

Australia has been boosted with the return of Emma Tonegato. She will add a new dimension to her team that needs to get their campaign back on track after two disastrous outings. A positive will be home crowd advantage, which will certainly boost the whole group.

Fijiana will welcome back four Olympians who missed the opening two rounds. They have been recalled under new Head Coach Saiasi Fuli. How will it affect the side? A boost naturally, so look at the women’s team from Fiji to capture and emulate the popularity of the men.

The Papua New Guinea Palais are the World Rugby ‘invitational side’ joining the 11 core sides in this third leg of the Sevens Series. They will hope to match the likes of Spain, Russia, China and  Ireland. If not match, then gain the experience of playing on the big stage. That is in preparation for the 2020 Japan Olympics qualification and the growth of the game around the world.

Looking at the leading sides, the facts are clear to see. Can the defending champions Australia stop the Kiwi sisters [again] on home soil? Can they match the World and Commonwealth champion New Zealand team.

Those thoughts will be on the mind of every Aussie player this weekend. And Last Word on Rugby will give you the Lowdown on this weekends women’s rugby sevens tournament draw.

HSBC Sydney 7s – Pool A 

New Zealand

Portia Woodman is still out with injury and an injury cloud hangs over captain Sarah Harimi (nee Goss) and Kelly Brazier. Decisions will be made on their fitness, but the Kiwis will have to dig deep to keep their unbeaten run in tact.

Kiwi fans can be confident that Ruby Tui, Taylah Nathan-Wong, Michaela Blyde, Niall Williams, together with Shakira Baker and Gayle Broughton (see main photo) will all carry the torch. The ‘sevens sisters’ have the depth with Terina Te Tamaki and Stacey Waaka showing great form last weekend.

Execution, self belief and the will to win will be the keys to another victory on the HSBC Sevens Series. They should go past the group stages unscathed. But the knockouts are where the Kiwi team are just as vulnerable as any other side.

France

Their outing in Hamilton would have given them enthusiasm to face the challenge of the Kiwis. Yes it is daunting, but with regular exposure, that familiarity is a bonus.

Montserrat Amadee will be missed, but Fanny Horta and her girls will give their all. Consistency will be key for them to keep up with the Oceania giants.

England

The English rookies showed a degree of quality in Hamilton. If they continue to learn from those outings against the world’s best, then they will be more competitive this weekend.

To reach higher than simply a semifinal place, Abby Brown, Amy Wilson-Hardy and the senior players in the squad have to lead from the get go.

PNG Palais

Another opportunity for the Palais to iron out their game situation, heading to the 2019/20 Series qualifiers in Hong Kong. Every game with the big guns will help them fine tune their game moving forward.

HSBC Sydney Sevens – Pool B

Canada

They have been consistent in the past few seasons but, with the loss of some experienced players, they are rediscovering what works for them. Ghislaine Landry, Britt Benn and Julie Greenshields will have to carry the torch through this transition period.

There is plenty of depth and development potential within the team to be competitive. A tough Pool to be playing in, with things going either way to the team – but the team that wants it the most, will perform if they are motivated and energized to win.

Russia

The Russians have been in Australia in the past two weeks playing some good warm-up matches. Consistency is what they should be working on, as they can beat any team when they are focused – but fail badly when not on-point.

Depth in the squad too will be needed, to ease the reliance on game makers Alena Mikhaltsova and Baizat Khamidova. How the Russians proceed in this leg will give an indication of their place in rugby sevens to be fair; the time to step-up is now.

Ireland

The Irish continue to improve with Stacey Flood and ‘captain fantastic’ Lucy Mulhall leading the charge. A little more consistency and self belief will see them in the semis consistently.

Fijiana

Raijeli Daveua, new captain Rusila Nagasau, former captain Ana Maria Roqica, Lavenia Tinai and Luisa Tisolo have all been recalled to the Fiji women’s team. That is five Olympians, who will certainly boost the side that includes debutante, Torika Seniyasi.

Outstanding at Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship, she will be the playmaker. New coach Saiasi Fuli is shifting players around, to create the best environment for Fiji to reach the potential their fans believe these women have.

Ana Rusila Nagasau of Fiji is tackled in the game against England during day two of the 2018 Sydney Sevens at Allianz Stadium on January 27, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

LWOR spoke to Rusila Nagasau on what the team’s aim was this weekend. She said,

Our aim is the top eight this weekend.

Her sentiment was agreed on by former captain Ana Maria Roqica, who LWOR spoke to in Sydney. They both sang the praises of the new coach.

They also asked for the prayers and support this weekend from fans back in Fiji and overseas; especially supporters in Sydney. No doubt all eyes will be on their more flamboyant brothers in the Men’s team but, Nagasau is expecting great things from the team this weekend.

HSBC Sydney 7s – Pool C

Australia

The hosts Australia have named a formidable side, even though they will be missing three of their standouts. Sadly for the team, Shannon Parry (shoulder), Demi Hayes (ankle) and Emilee Cherry, will miss this weekend – Cherry to miss the whole series, due to her pregnancy.

Aside from the loss in firepower, Emma Tonegato will boost the side’s strength with rookies Sariah Paki, Lily Dick and Yasmin Meakes hoping to have a great showing in front of family and friends.

“It’s great to be welcoming back Emma (Tonegato) into the playing squad. Emma has worked incredibly hard throughout her rehab and she offers versatility for us, able to cover almost every position on the park” Coach John Manenti told rugby.com.au.

Fans must still remember, the Aussies ‘walloped’ the Kiwi girls in Sydney last year. In fact, that was the last time the Kiwis lost a game in any competition! [40 plus game unbeaten] and Australia will be hoping for a repeat performance.

Alicia Quirk, Dom Du Toit and Elia Green will be their go-to-options, if they want to repeat that outcome.

Team USA

The Americans have really stepped up this season. Continuity will be the way to go for them. They have the players now – like their Mens team – that can compete. It will be their execution and in delivering when it is needed the most, that will determine the US team’s success this season.

Fans need to see the sides progress through to the end. Results against China, or even an upset over Australia, will separate them from underdogs to being considered champions. That process might be long, hard and tough but good old determination and the will to win, might see them through to the semifinals at least.

China

China rested some of their stars in the Fast Four tournament last weekend, and tested some rookies who really stood up to the test. Every game for this nation is a learning experience, and they will continue to grow.

They can create upsets if taken too lightly.

Spain

In her latest column for World Rugby, Patricia Garcia reiterated the need for her side to work hard on minimizing their mistakes. They have lots to work on, so that they can become a consistent competitor.

Los Leona’s can be very competitive on their day and should hold their heads high if they can achieve one or two solid victories at the HSBC Sydney Sevens.

Last Word on Rugby – Sydney 7s, the Verdict

It will be a rugby fiesta in Sydney this weekend, especially at the intimate Spotless Stadium, in the Olympic Park showgrounds. Australia will be strong at home and will be the biggest threat to the Kiwis.

France, Canada and United States will be the biggest hurdle to the Oceania giants goals of making the final. A loss in pool play for either of the ‘big two’ will see them clash in the playoffs, so watch out for the action on Friday.

Fijiana, England, Russia and Ireland are the underdogs, with Spain, China and PNG Palais out to tell the world that ‘they are not there to make up the numbers’.

Watch the rookies from England, and as usual, the power players like, Chen Keyi of China, Ruby Tui of New Zealand, Evania Pelite of Australia and Alena Mikhaltsova of Russia. Positional changes within the Fijiana side could see them as a very competitive side. And always a threat, watch out for US inspiration Naya Tapper, who along with the strength of Ilona Maher, may carry the Americans through.

So many players to watch out for, but former HSBC Sydney Sevens winners Canada could be this weekends Wildcard, with Bianca Farella and Ghislaine Landry of Canada, a strikeforce who could dominate if not controlled in defence.

Plenty to look forward to, on and off the field. If you are in Sydney, check out for those classy DJs keeping the fans rocking all weekend. It will be an electrifying experience, and …..watch out for the avocado man to make another appearance.

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The HSBC Sydney Sevens women’s tournament starts at 12pm Friday, February 1.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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