Black Ferns Sevens prepare to make long-awaited World Rugby Sevens Series comeback
More than two years after New Zealand played their last women’s Series tournament, coach Cory Sweeney has picked a 13-player squad for Langford.
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe welcomes the scrutiny Ireland will come under at the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens this weekend as they begin a busy few months.
Ireland made history at the end of January as they reached their first ever HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Cup final in Seville.
That result, aided by nine tries from Murphy Crowe, lifted the team to fifth in the women’s Series standings and raised hopes that a maiden tournament victory is within reach.
For Murphy Crowe and her teammates their goal remains qualification for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022, but they are also determined to back up their success in Spain when they take the field in Langford.
“As I've heard before, pressure is a privilege,” she told World Rugby.
“To be under pressure is actually such a good thing because we want to be world class, so we want to achieve the best and we want to be at the top.
“That's what our team is just driven to do.”
Ahead of the 2022 Series, Murphy Crowe and her teammates vowed to “put sevens on the map” in Ireland and they understand that to do that they must be successful.
That is why the prolific winger was happy to return to the sevens camp ahead of the trip to Langford, having been part of the 15s squad for the opening three rounds of the Women’s Six Nations 2022.
Murphy Crowe admits it was hard to switch back to the shorter format just when “things were clicking” in 15s, but believes the tournament in Canada is a pivotal stepping stone on the path to Cape Town.
“[It was] a really good opportunity for us to get to play in the Six Nations,” she said.
“But we know what lies ahead for us in sevens. We've got a big summer coming with World Cup qualification, which is the ultimate goal for us, to reach the World Cup in Cape Town in September.
“So, we know that Langford plays a huge part in this as it's a big preparation tournament.”
Murphy Crowe cites the “culture, the cohesion and the togetherness” of the wider squad as reasons behind the team’s success in Seville.
“We’ve had such great support from our external squad who actually couldn't travel to Seville, who we were there to put our best foot forward for,” she said.
“Going into Langford, it’s a really good opportunity to continue that success and continue building as a team and... we're really excited to keep building.”
Murphy Crowe has been in stunning form so far in 2022. Following her performance in Seville, which included a second hat-trick of the season, no woman on the Series has scored more than her 20 tries.
She also crossed the whitewash in Ireland’s opening Women’s Six Nations match against Wales, and despite her relative lack of experience in 15s has become a key member of Greg McWilliams’ backline.
Personal glory is not what drives Murphy Crowe, however, and she insists her sole aim on the pitch is to help the team perform.
“The body's good and the mind's good, so that's good,” she said when asked about her form. “But I wouldn't get too bogged down in those sorts of stats.
“I want to be able to put my best foot forward for the team and if that is through scoring then so be it.
“But if it's making clever tackles or if it's being on someone's inside shoulder, [or] if it's a chat off the pitch that you might need a pick-me-up, then I'm there for that.
“And, yeah, that's the role. I'll try and help to drive our team forward.”
If she can do that then Murphy Crowe is hopeful a second RWC Sevens appearance is only a matter of months away.
Having twice missed out on Olympic qualification and been part of the 15s squad that failed to reach Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, however, she will take nothing for granted.
“We are well aware how these tournaments work and what lies in them,” Murphy Crowe said. “We’re just going to focus on getting our team cohesion right and being able to perform when we are under pressure.
“It would be absolutely amazing [to qualify]. It's this year's goal… and when you achieve a goal, you feel some sort of pride and relief about how much work you've put in throughout the year.
“So, for everyone in our squad, it would be a huge achievement. It'd also be really exciting to see some of the girls who haven't played in World Cups experience it.
“I've been to Cape Town, it's a stunning city and it offers so much, so it'd be really, really exciting to get there.”
A first ever tournament victory this weekend would certainly keep Ireland’s momentum building and would also be a fitting way for Murphy Crowe to mark her birthday.
Murphy Crowe turns 27 on Tuesday, but with the tournament in Langford on the horizon, celebrations have been put on hold.
“I’m sure the girls will fire a cake at some point in the day,” she said. “I've spent many a birthday in training or at a tournament, so I'm well used to it.
“But it's nice to spend my birthday with my team because they're basically my family. So, it's kind of a home away from home.
“[To win in Langford] would be the best birthday present I've ever got, but look, we're just going to continue to work hard.
“We'll work really, really hard, get the pool games under our belts, because we've got a challenging enough pool and we don't want to take that for granted, and then we'll play it game by game on day two and hopefully get to that final again.”