Chasing pack target Australia as women's Series 2023 kicks off in Dubai
We preview the Emirates Dubai 7s, the opening women's tournament and first dual event of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023.
A new era will be ushered in on Friday as Great Britain return to action in Dubai for the first time as a permanent core member of the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Co-captains Abbie Brown and Meg Jones will lead a team featuring Jasmine Joyce, Shona Campbell and Heather Cowell into matches against New Zealand, France and Brazil on day one at the Emirates Dubai 7s.
The Black Ferns Sevens will provide a stern test in Great Britain’s opening match at 09:44 local time (GMT+4) and this week Jones admitted she is keen to assess where the squad is at following a six-week training camp under coach Nick Wakley.
Having competed at the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games last year, Great Britain appeared in the opening two rounds of the men’s and women’s 2022 Series, both of which were held in Dubai.
Great Britain’s women highlighted their potential in the first of those, winning four of five matches to finish fifth. Seven days later, however, those celebrations turned sour as the team failed to win a single match across the two-day tournament.
Their male counterparts endured a disappointing start to the 2023 men’s Series at the beginning of November, finishing the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 11th despite beating Commonwealth Games 2022 gold medallists South Africa in Pool B.
Jones and Co. look set for an equally tough assignment having been drawn alongside 2022 women’s Series runners-up France, the Black Ferns Sevens – who won the tournament the last time they appeared in Dubai – and Brazil, who beat them at The Sevens Stadium 12 months ago.
Great Britain co-captain Jones is one of nine players from the squad that competed in Dubai last year who have been selected to represent the team again this weekend.
Used to representing England in the Series, Jones is excited to be back at one of her favourite events and cannot wait for her team-mates to measure themselves against some of the best players in the world again.
“We’re back as a Great Britain squad and we've had a good six-week training block with a new coach, new strength and conditioning, new physio, a couple of new faces and also many familiar faces,” she said.
“It's now opening up the pool of players and making it way more competitive, pushing the performance and our boundaries as much as we can.
“I think we're really looking forward to seeing where we are at the moment, and then see where we can go with it.
“Dubai is one of the greatest legs and we love coming out here. The views are amazing, the fans are amazing, the whole event is amazing.
“So yeah, to be out here with the rest of the gang is good, you know, friends off the pitch, but obviously enemies on the pitch. It's going to be a good test.”
Earlier this year, World Rugby supported the decision made jointly by the Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union to compete as Great Britain in the Series, starting in 2023.
The move aligns with their Olympic participation status and qualification pathway and was made to give its teams the best possible chance to perform at future Games.
Great Britain competed at both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, winning a men’s silver medal at the former and finishing fourth in each of the other three tournaments.
The top four teams in the standings at the end of the 2023 Series will secure their place at Paris 2024 and Jones is keen to experience another Olympic Games.
“This whole journey is an amazing journey to be part of and hopefully we can make it to the Paris 2024 Olympics, which will be the icing on top of the cake,” she said.
“But in terms of longevity and the future of GB sevens, we’re also set on pushing the boundaries and creating and sustaining a world-class performance.”