For the first time in the 46-year history of the Hong Kong Sevens, the weekend will include a women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event.

Hong Kong is the ‘bucket-list’ tournament that everyone wants to play in and now the world’s leading women get their chance to do just that.

For French teenager, Pauline Barrat, making her Series debut in such an iconic venue in a ground-breaking event will be something she could have only dreamed of.

Barrat, 18, is the only Series newcomer in Hong Kong outside of the Hong Kong China squad and is the first player from La Rochelle to represent Les Bleues in sevens.

She is one of four changes to the squad that made the Cup semi-finals in Vancouver in the last round.

The 2024 Olympic hosts are without Camille Grassineau and Jade Ulutule but Montserrat Amédée, scorer of 35 Series tries, is back in the mix, as are Lucy Hapulat and Valentine Lothoz.

Unstoppable New Zealand change two

Alena Saili and Manaia Nuku have returned from an injury lay-off in the nick of time to make the New Zealand squad and savour what should be an unforgettable experience.

“It will be an exciting occasion for the game and the girls to be a part of. It will be the first time for the women to experience, perform and compete at the Hong Kong Sevens stage, which is viewed by many as the home of sevens and the ultimate arena to test yourselves,” said head coach Cory Sweeney.

“We are pleased to welcome both Alena and Manaia back into the team after injury lay off. Both have been training really well and we are looking forward to them having an immediate impact on the team.”

New Zealand, currently on a 24-game winning streak, have a 14-point lead at the top of the Series standings and have already qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The Black Ferns Sevens have been drawn with Canada, Great Britain and women’s Series debutants Hong Kong China in Pool A.

Maher blow for the USA

Australia, their nearest challengers, will join them in the line-up if they make the quarter-final this weekend. First, they’ll have to get past Fiji, Ireland and Brazil in Pool B.

Faythe Manera is in for Lily Dick in the only change from Australia’s squad in Vancouver.

The USA are two points further back in the standings, also knowing that they will claim one of the automatic Olympic qualifying spots if they make it out of Pool C, France, Japan and Spain provide the opposition.

However, they’ve been dealt a blow between tournaments with Ilona Maher ruled out for the remainder of the Series after suffering an ankle injury in training.

Sammy Sullivan is the only other Women’s Sevens Eagle missing from the last round, and their places are taken by Alex Sedrick and Steph Rovetti.

Coaching change for Ireland

Ireland’s new head coach Allan Temple-Jones has opted for continuity in his first squad selection since taking over from Aiden McNulty.

Kate Farrell-McCabe is the only new face in the squad.

The Lucy Mulhall-led team are currently sitting in fifth position, but with Olympic hosts France occupying fourth place, Ireland would secure their place at the 2024 Games as things stand.

They head to Hong Kong knowing two more strong performances at the Hong Kong Stadium and in Toulouse in May would put them in a good position to achieve their ultimate ambition.

The girls in green are currently 10 points ahead of Fiji, adding extra meaning to the pair’s pool encounter.

Dual international, Raijieli Daveua, is back for Fiji as they look to keep the pressure on Ireland. Younis Bese also comes in for what will be her fifth Series tournament.

Great Britain, the side immediately below them, bring Shona Campbell into the fold, while Canada will have to make do without the Series’ most-experienced player, Bianca Farella.

Having picked up more points (26) in the last two rounds in Sydney and Vancouver compared to the first three rounds combined, it’ll be interesting to see how her absence affects Canada’s momentum.

Photo : France Rugby / Julien Poupart