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Top 7 Profile: Where We Stand

Top 7 Profile: Where We Stand
July 20
11:39 2018

LEONE  CABENATABUA

REPORTING  FROM  SAN  FRANSISCO

The Fiji Airways Fijiana 7s team are seeded seventh in the Rugby World Cup Sevens that gets underway in San Francisco this weekend. According to World Rugby, series champions New Zealand are seeded ahead of Olympic champions Australia. Here are the top 7 seeded women’s teams:

NEW ZEALAND

Seeded: 1

Coach: Allan Bunting

Captain: Sarah Goss

Nickname: Black Ferns Sevens

Twitter handle: @BlackFerns

RWC Sevens best result: Champions 2013

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 2

New Zealand are the defending RWC Sevens champions having beaten Canada in Moscow in 2013 and they certainly know what winning is all about, having won four series titles in six years and the inaugural Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this year. The Black Ferns Sevens will arrive in San Francisco as the in-form team and on a 23-match unbeaten run that has brought them Cup titles in Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris. That run wasn’t enough to deny Australia a second series crown, but with a perfect blend of physical power, sheer pace, x-factor and experience when it comes to finals and knock-out rugby, the most successful team in women’s sevens history will take some beating in San Francisco. The squad is littered with star names, from captain Sarah Goss and Niall Williams to the lethal finishing duo of Portia Woodman and Michaela Blyde, the World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 15s and sevens respectively in 2017.

 

AUSTRALIA

Seeded: 2

Coach: John Manenti

Captains: Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams

Twitter handle: @Aussie7s

RWC Sevens best result: Champions 2009

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 1

Australia wrote their name into RWC Sevens history when Shelly Matcham scored a dramatic sudden-death try to beat New Zealand 15-10 in the inaugural women’s final in Dubai in 2009. It would be another seven years before Australia tasted such heights again, winning a first HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series title and then the inaugural Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 as their sevens programme began to reap rewards. With the experience of co-captains Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams, the vision of former World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Charlotte Caslick and the pace of Ellia Green and Emma Tonegato, Australia will be hoping to rediscover the dominance they enjoyed at the start of the 2018 series when they became the first team to go through a series event without conceding a try in Sydney. Australia arrive in San Francisco on a high after holding off an in-form New Zealand to win a second series crown

 

CANADA

Seeded: 3

Coach: John Tait

Captain: Ghislaine Landry

Twitter handle: @RugbyCanada

RWC Sevens best result: Runners-up 2013

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series final placing: 4

Canada, runners-up at RWC Sevens 2013, will be looking to go one step further closer to home in San Francisco this weekend. Ghislaine Landry was at the heart of their run to the final in Moscow, scoring a try in the 29-12 loss to New Zealand in the title decider, and remains a pivotal figure with Canada a much different proposition when their talisman and captain is missing. Canada have a settled squad with a strong backbone of experience and dynamic runners like Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields and Charity Williams who can strike from anywhere. John Tait’s side had a mixed time in 2018, from winning bronze medals in Sydney and Paris to failing to reach the Cup quarter-finals for the first time in series history in Kitakyushu, to finish fourth in the series standings, their lowest ever ranking – a scenario which makes them even more dangerous on the RWC Sevens stage.

 

 

RUSSIA

Seeded: 4

Coach: Andrey Kuzin

Captain: Alena Mikhaltsova

Twitter handle: @RugbyRussia

RWC Sevens best result: Quarter-finalists 2013

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 6

Two semi-finals and a fifth-place finish in the first three rounds of the 2018 series saw Russia lying third and seemingly on course for their best-ever finish, but they fell away with 10th their highest ranking in the remaining two rounds. Russia, hosts of the last RWC Sevens in 2013, will therefore hope to recapture that earlier form if they are to improve on a top eight finish in Moscow. Captain Alena Mikhaltsova is the heartbeat of the Russian side and they are a shadow of themselves without her. She has the vision, drive and pace to turn something into nothing, collecting two DHL Impact Player awards and finishing as top try-scorer with 11 in Kitakyushu. Baizat Khamidova’s physicality helps Russia to win plenty of turnover ball at the breakdown to allow Mikhaltsova and others to turn into tries.

 

USA

Seeded: 5

Coach: Richie Walker

Captain: Nicole Heavirland

Nickname: Women’s Sevens Eagles

Twitter handle: @USARugby

RWC Sevens best result: Semi-finalists 2009 and 2013

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 5

The pressure will be on USA as tournament hosts with expectations high for a first-ever RWC Sevens final appearance, something they will have to achieve without former captain Alev Kelter, a player with nerves of steel and a huge work-rate that inspires those around her, after she was ruled out through injury on Tuesday. Finalists twice when the world series has visited USA soil, Richie Walker will look for his side to combine their athleticism and power to create space for speedsters Naya Tapper and Kristen Thomas to score the tries to keep them in the running for a first global title. USA finished fifth on the 2018 series, the highlight undoubtedly making the final in the season opener in Dubai last November, and if they can harness the home support and handle the weight of expectation then bettering their two previous semi-final appearances would be a perfect way to end the season at AT&T Park.

 

FRANCE

Seeded: 6

Coach: David Courteix

Captain: Fanny Horta

Nickname: Les Bleues

Twitter handle: @FFRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Plate semi-finalists 2009

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 3

France have long had the potential to challenge for titles but had never managed to discover the magic formula until this year, when Les Bleues reached their first-ever series Cup final in Kitakyushu only to fall to New Zealand. The David Courteix-coached team showed that was no flash in the pan by reaching the semi-finals in Langford and Paris to claim the series bronze medal for the first time – a big improvement on seventh the previous year. With captain Fanny Horta leading by example alongside another stalwart in Marjorie Mayans, and Camille Grassineau (pictured) and Montserrat Amédée scoring tries for fun, Les Bleues would appear to be closing in on their first major honour in sevens. They also boast the Rookie of the Year in Coralie Bertrand and the French public will be hoping for more flowing rugby in San Francisco.

 

FIJI

Seeded: 7

Coach: Iliesa Tanivula

Captain: Ana Maria Roqica

Nickname: Fijiana

Twitter handle: @FijiRugby

RWC Sevens best result: Bowl winners 2013

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 9

Fiji’s women, just like their men’s team, are a joy to watch when everything comes together and the simple tactic of offloading out of tackles and creating space for others results in some mesmerising, often long-range, tries. Fijiana struggled to find their form in the early rounds of the season, having enjoyed their best-ever series in 2016-17 to finish fourth and raise levels of expectation back home, but sixth place finishes in Kitakyushu and Paris suggest that coach Iliesa Tanivula is once again getting the best out of his players. Led by captain Ana Maria Roqica and with try-scoring threats like Luisa Basei Tisolo and Ana Maria Naimasi, a Fijian side playing with freedom and a smile on their faces will be a welcome sight for their vocal supporters.

 

Edited  by  Osea Bola

Feedback:  leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

 

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