Here is a closer look at the 11 core teams who will be battling for glory this season on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
Coach: Tim Walsh
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 fifth, 2013-14 runners-up
Cup titles: Dubai and Sao Paulo (2013-14)
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Emilee Cherry (195 (first) and 33 (first)
2013-14 points and tries: 716 (second), 118 (second)
The challenge for Australia will be to build upon their remarkable season in 2013-14 but they are boosted by the return of teenager Tiana Penitani. She hasn’t featured on the Series for 18 months having spent a year on the sidelines after injuring her knee at RWC Sevens 2013. Her return to the green and gold saw her co-captain Australia to Youth Olympic Games gold in China in August. Coach Tim Walsh could also field two newcomers in Tanisha Stanton and Chloe Dalton, who have made the switch from netball and basketball respectively.
Coach: John Tait
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 third, 2013-14 third
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Bianca Farella (125 (third) and 25 (third)
2013-14 points and tries: 554 (third), 88 (third)
Canada were the only side to break the Australia-New Zealand dominance of finals last season, reaching the title decider in Atlanta. With a core group of experienced players, led by Jen Kish, Canada will hope to match their third place finish of the last two series to secure Olympic qualification and build on the feel-good factor around women’s rugby in the country in 2014 after reaching the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 final in 15s and winning a Youth Olympic Games silver medal in China.
Coach: Lu xiaohui
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 13th, 2013-14 14th
2013-14 points and tries: 74 points (14th), 12 tries (14th) – played two events
China have long been Asia’s leading women’s sevens team – although they did suffer a surprise loss against Japan in the title decider of the final Asian Sevens Series event – but making the step up to face the world’s best teams has proved hard at times. However, with core team status secured for 2014-15, they will have regular exposure to the series and their game can only benefit.
Coach: Simon Middleton
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 runners-up, 2013-14 fourth
Cup titles: Houston (2012-13)
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Sarah McKenna 84 (14th), Natasha Brennan 16 (seventh)
2013-14 points and tries: 440 (joint fifth), 73 (sixth)
English women’s rugby has been on a high for the last few months following their success at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in August and the awarding of 19 professional sevens contracts to players. This group has now been training together since September and will want to see the rewards of its hard work in Dubai with a genuine title challenge. England have not reached a final since Guangzhou in 2013, but have plenty of experience with the likes of Rachael Burford and Danielle Waterman in their ranks.
Coach: Iliesa Tanivula
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 16th, 2013-14 10th
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Asinate Ufia Savu 88 (12th) and 12 (joint 13th)
2013-14 points and tries: 189 (ninth), 31 (joint 10th) – played only two events
Of the four new core teams, Fiji will be the one the established sides are most wary of facing and it is easy to see why after the way they stormed into the cup semi-finals in Guangzhou last season, beating England and Russia along the way. With Asinate Ufia Savu a standout player for Fijiana and former men’s coach Iliesa Tanivula at the helm, it will be interesting to see how the winners of the series qualifier benefits from playing against the world’s best nations on a consistent basis this season. A dark horse for a top-four finish this season.
Coach: David Courteix
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 12th, 2013-14 eighth
2013-14 points and tries: 160 (12th), 26 (12th) – played three events
France reached the final of the series qualifier in Hong Kong and were only denied victory by a last-gasp Fiji try. With core team status secured they will travel to Dubai with an experienced squad, including the likes of Marjorie Mayans, Shannon Izar and Christelle le Duff. A number of the squad played at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 on home soil and they are among a group of 15 players now on semi-professional contracts with the FFR, mirroring the men’s set-up.
Coach: Sean Horan
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 champions, 2013-14 champions
Cup titles: Dubai, Guangzhou and Amsterdam (2012-13), Atlanta, Guangzhou and Amsterdam (2013-14)
2013-14 points and tries: 878 (first), 138 (first)
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Kayla McAlister 145 (second) and 29 (second)
World and series champions New Zealand will arrive in Dubai without captain Huriana Manuel and former Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Kayla McAlister through injury and their experience will undoubtedly be missed. But on the positive side, try-scoring machine Portia Woodman is back to torment defences with coach Horan insisting “she’s come back bigger, faster, stronger.” A domestic Women’s Sevens Series recently gave a shop window to shine and newcomers Morgan Morrow and Charlotte Scanlan seized the chance with both hands to make the cut for Dubai.
Coach: Pavel Baranovksy
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 sixth, 2013-14 fifth
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Nadezda Kudinova 107 (sixth), Baizat Khamidova 18 (sixth)
2013-14 points and tries: 440 (joint fifth), 74 (fifth)
Sevens’ inclusion in the Olympic Games opened new doors for the sport in Russia and their women will be going all out for a top-four place in 2014-15 to secure that qualification berth. Russia finished fifth last season and have since retained their European sevens crown. Russia, with their larger than life coach, will again by looking to the likes of Baizat Khamidova and Nadezda Kudinova as they seek to better their third place finish in Dubai 12 months ago.
Coach: Renfred Dazel
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 eighth, 2013-14 15th
2013-14 points and tries: 45 (15th), 7 (15th) – played only one event
South Africa only played in one event last season but beat the Netherlands in their cup quarter-final in the series qualifier in Hong Kong to secure core status for 2014-15. The core of Renfred Dazel’s squad has been training together for almost a year and they are excited by the season ahead. They will miss captain Zenay Jordaan in Dubai due to injury, but still boast some experienced players and Dazel insists he has faith in his players to “do the job in Dubai.”
Coach: José Antonio Barrio
Series roll of honour: 2012-13 ninth, 2013/14 sixth
2013-14 Top point and try scorer: Patricia Garcia 100 (eighth), Barbara Pla 12 (joint 11th)
2013-14 points and tries: 332 (seventh), 54 (seventh)
While many of Spain’s squad were involved in Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in France, they will now be turning their attention back to sevens and hoping to better their sixth place finish last season. Spain’s experienced squad, including the likes of Patricia Garcia and Marina Bravo, benefitted from being a core side in 2013-14 and progressing to the business end of the Cup competition will be their focus in the coming rounds.
Coach: Ric Suggitt
2013-14 Series roll of honour: 2012-13 fourth, 2013-14 seventh
Top point and try scorer: Victoria Folayan 70 (18th) and 14 (ninth)
2013-14 points and tries: 471 (fourth), 81 (fourth)
Last season Women’s Sevens Eagles coach Ric Suggitt blooded a lot of new players, knowing they would all benefit from the experience when it came to this Olympic qualification season. One player fitting into that camp is Jessica Javelet, who will be back in the stars and stripes after missing the final two rounds of last season due to her field hockey commitments. Suggitt will need some consistency from his charges this season if they are to be in the mix for a top four place and Olympic qualification.
Who will star this year? We wait eagerly to see!