“This is huge for Fiji” – Ben Gollings
Fiji’s head coach talks about winning Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 and discusses what has been a big year for him personally.
Sharni Williams completed a unique quadruple in Cape Town on Sunday, but her focus has already shifted to a different challenge: Rugby World Cup 2021.
Williams turned in a stunning performance to earn the FNB South Africa Greatest Player of the Women’s Final award and help Australia edge New Zealand to the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 title.
Victory means that Williams and team-mate Charlotte Caslick now possess a full set of gold medals in sevens, having previously won the Olympic Games, World Rugby Sevens Series and Commonwealth Games.
Sevens? Completed it 🏆— Rugby World Cup 7s 2022 (@WorldRugby7s) September 12, 2022
Charlotte Caslick and Sharni Williams are the first @Aussie7s players to complete a unique quartet of Sevens titles
🥇 Rugby World Cup Sevens
🥇 World Rugby Sevens Series
🥇 Commonwealth Games#RWC7s | #HereToSevens pic.twitter.com/mTnUxO5lxt
“I’ve got the four, how good is that?” she said in the immediate aftermath of Australia’s RWC Sevens 2022 triumph.
But she will have little time to rest and enjoy that success, having been named in the Wallaroos squad to compete in New Zealand next month.
It was in 15s that Williams first put on the famous green and gold jersey, in 2008, and she will now put everything into finishing a trophy-laden year with RWC 2021 success.
“I’ve packed my calendar, they say you only live once and when you’re retired, you are retired, so I’m taking these opportunities as much as I can,” she told World Rugby.
“Tom Carter (Head of Athletic Performance Australian Women's Sevens) has really invested a lot of time into me in terms of S&C and in my body and shape and understanding my body a lot better.
“Obviously, I have been playing for a long time so it’s that older body and seeing what athletes can do.
“You push limits because we are women and there is not a lot of studies about women, so why not keep doing it while you are enjoying it.”
On the chances of winning a second Rugby World Cup title in quick succession, Williams added: “The world’s your oyster, mate. Why not open it up and see what you can do!
“The girls are in some good form and they’re in camp at the moment, so I’ll join them once I get back.”
Next month’s showpiece tournament in New Zealand will be Williams’ fourth 15s Rugby World Cup, but she hasn’t played test rugby since the RWC 2017 fifth-place play-off defeat to Canada in Belfast.
“It’s going to be a huge transition,” she admitted. “I guess that’s part of my career – to keep challenging myself and keep pushing those limits.
“I’ll try and slot myself in there with my knowledge and experience and really rally around the girls.
“During COVID I was able to go back and play club footy, with the mighty Warringah Rats, and it was exciting to be able to play club footy again.”
Williams might not have much recent experience in 15s rugby, but she will certainly inject a feeling of belief into the Wallaroos squad heading into RWC 2021.
Securing a nail-biting 24-22 victory against New Zealand in the Cape Town final capped an historic season for Australia, who became the first team to win RWC Sevens, Series and Commonwealth Games titles in the same year.
As one of the senior players in the squad, Williams and her rainbow-coloured scrum cap have been front and centre as the team swept the board in 2022.
“I love this group. They keep me young,” the 34-year-old said on Sunday night.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you definitely can with this group – I’ve been getting my TikToks out. They keep me in my uncomfortable zone!
“Thank you to World Rugby for this tournament and thank you to South Africa for putting on a great spectacle."
It is almost 14 years since Williams made her test debut for Australia, during an O’Reilly Cup defeat to New Zealand in Canberra, and much has changed for women in rugby in that time.
One thing that remains constant, though, is her passion for the game and wearing the iconic green and gold jersey, whether that be in sevens or 15s.
That is surely something she will retain well beyond RWC 2021, whatever happens in New Zealand next month.
“You go out there just to have fun and play for your country,” Williams said. “It’s pretty amazing to be able to pull this jersey on.
“To now see the athletes and to be able to play on the world stage and travel around the world is pretty amazing. It’s the best job in the world.”