This weekend’s matches in Dubai could have a huge bearing on the destination of the WXV 3 title as The Sevens Stadium hosts the second round of action on Friday and Saturday.

Kazakhstan and Kenya can kickstart their campaigns in Friday’s opening match before Spain and Fiji look to make it two wins from two.

On Saturday, pace-setters Ireland meet South American opposition for the first time as they take on Colombia in Scott Bemand’s second match in charge.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the second round of WXV 3.

Kazakhstan, Kenya target first win

Kazakhstan meet Kenya for the first time in test rugby on Friday (kick-off 17:00 local time, GMT+4) with both teams hoping to bounce back from opening weekend defeats.

Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2023 runners-up Kazakhstan start the match bottom of the WXV 3 standings, having conceded 17 tries in their 109-0 defeat to Ireland last weekend.

That was their biggest ever test loss and head coach Makhabbat Tugambekova has reacted by making two personnel and eight positional changes to her starting line-up for the match against Kenya.

Hooker Moldir Askhat, second-row Anna Chebotar, blindside flanker Tatyana Kruchinkina, scrum-half Daiana Kazibekova and fly-half Kundyzay Baktybayeva are the only players who will face the Lionesses wearing the same jersey number as they did last week.

Loose-head prop Yelena Yurova and full-back Gulim Bakytpek are the players who have been drafted into the starting XV, with second-row Darya Simakova and winger Alyona Melnikova dropping out.

Kenya were also kept scoreless as they lost 32-0 against Spain last Saturday, and will be without captain Knight Otwoma, who misses the match through injury.

Enid Ouma returns to the back row at blindside and resumes the captaincy, with Naomi Kemei switching from the second row to number eight.

Maureen Chebet takes Kemei’s place in the engine room and will make her first test start at The Sevens Stadium, while Terry Isabwa comes into the back three on the right wing.

The Lionesses have also been bolstered by the addition of five players from the team that finished as runners-up in the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens Olympic qualification tournament in Tunisia last weekend.

“We will keep Phoebe [Otieno], Grace [Okulu] and Judy [Okumu] on the bench,” Kenya assistant coach Paul Murunga said. “Terry starts this game replacing [Lewin] Amazimbi, who has been rested.

“They may come in later in the second half, reasons being we want to build a consistent team in terms of how they have been training and playing.”

Kazakhstan: Gulim Bakytpek; Darya Tkachyova, Yeva Bekker, Lyudmila Ivanova, Liliya Kibisheva; Kundyzay Baktybayeva, Daiana Kazibekova; Yelena Yurova, Moldir Askhat, Natalya Kamendrovskaya, Anna Chebotar, Symbat Zhamankulova, Tatyana Kruchinkina, Tatyana Dadajanova, Karina Sazontova (captain).

Replacements: Karina Tankisheva, Balzhan Akhbayeva, Yuliya Oleinikova, Svetlana Malezhina, Kuralay Turalykova, Anastassiya Yevdokimova, Daria Kuznetsova, Milana Kotova.

Kenya: Freshia Odour; Terry Isabwa, Prisca Nyerere, Laurine Otieno, Esther Juma; Ann Ochieng, Diana Omosso; Rose Otieno, Staycy Atieno, Natasha Emali, Maureen Chebet, Faith Livoi, Enid Ouma (captain), Diana Nyairo, Naomi Kemei.

Replacements: Naomi Muhanji, Mercy Migongo, Evelyne Luganu, Hesslah Khisa, Phoebe Otieno, Judith Okumu, Grace Okulu, Mitchelle Owuor.

Something has to give as Spain face Fiji

The second match of the weekend is also a first meeting as Spain and Fiji put their winning starts on the line in Dubai (kick-off 19:30 local time).

Spain ended a run of five consecutive defeats, their worst sequence of results in 16 years, last Saturday as they ran in four tries to beat Kenya 32-0.

Las Leonas currently sit third in the WXV 3 standings on points difference, and they will want another victory to maintain their title hopes ahead of their final match against Ireland on 28 October.

Head coach Juan González has made four changes to his starting line-up as Spain go in search of that win against Fijiana.

Two of those changes come in the front row, where loose-head Inés Antolínez Fernandez and tight-head Laura Delgado start either side of hooker and captain Cristina Blanco Herrera.

Blindside flanker Nerea García Rementeria also comes into the pack, while Clara Piquero is handed a start on the left wing.

Fijiana head into the match sitting seven places below Spain in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini and know they could climb as high as 17th with victory.

A win on Friday would be their first against European opposition at their third attempt, but they certainly showed they possess the firepower to pull it off as they ran in 11 tries to beat Colombia 67-13 on the opening night.

Flanker Sulita Waisega and centre Vani Arei each scored a brace of tries against Las Tucanes and they retain their places in a side that shows three personnel changes.

Prop Tiana Robanakadavu, second-row Nunia Delaimoala and Olympic bronze medallist Rusila Nagasau are the players who come into the team. Replacement props Loraini Senivutu and Penina S B Qerawaqa Turova will make their test debuts if called upon from the bench.

Spain: Amalia Argudo; Claudia Pérez Pérez, Claudia Peña Hidalgo, Icíar Pozo Eizaguirre, Clara Piquero; Inés Bueso-Inchausti, Ariadna Vergara Piqueras; Inés Antolínez Fernandez, Cristina Blanco Herrera (captain), Laura Delgado, Anna Puig, Carmen Castellucci, Nerea García Rementeria, Alba Capell, María Calvo.

Replacements: Maria Román Mallen, María del Castillo, Sidorella Bracic Rodriguez, Nadina Cisa, Vico Gorrochategui Juste, Julia Castro, Zahia Pérez, Alba Vinuesa.

Fiji: Luisa Tisolo; Adita Milinia, Vani Arei, Rusila Nagasau, Iva Sauria; Jennifer Ravutia, Setaita Railumu; Ana Korovata, Bitila Tawake, Tiana Robanakadavu, Nunia Delaimoala, Doreen Narokete, Merevesi Ofakimalino, Sulita Waisega, Sereima Leweniqila (captain).

Replacements: Unaisi Navue Lalabalavu, Loraini Senivutu, Penina S B Qerawaqa Turova, Mereoni Nakesa, Karalaini Naisewa, Evivi Senikarivi, Merewairita Neivosa, Atelaite Ralivanawa.

Colombia attempt to halt Irish momentum

Ireland returned to the top 10 of the rankings with their 17-try defeat of Kazakhstan and they will hope to maintain that momentum and their quest for the WXV 3 title when they take on Colombia on Saturday (kick-off 17:00 local time).

This is the third match of the weekend that hasn’t been played before, and Ireland are favourites to win it, sitting as they do 15 places higher than Las Tucanes in the rankings.

Ahead of a final round match against Spain at The Sevens Stadium, this is a match head coach Scott Bemand will feel his team need to win if they are to end the tournament on top of the standings.

Last week’s 109-0 win against Kazakhstan ended a run of six successive defeats for Ireland, who finished bottom of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023 standings.

Bemand has been tasked with returning the team to its former glories in the two-year sprint to Rugby World Cup 2025, and the early signs were positive as Béibhinn Parsons and Eve Higgins each crossed the whitewash four times in his first match in charge.

Both players keep their places in the team against Colombia, albeit Parsons has swapped wings with Natasja Behan, as Bemand makes three personnel changes to the starting line-up.

Second-row Eimear Corri comes in to make her first test start alongside co-captain Sam Monaghan, while Aoibheann Reilly and Nicole Fowley form an all-new half-back partnership. Fiona Tuite, meanwhile, is in line to make her debut from the bench.

“I think we’re on plan,” Bemand said. “And we’re getting the girls up to speed with how we want to play, how we want to take it forward, being able to build some combinations, being able to blood some new caps.

“I think, so far, the wheels seem to be turning in the right direction.”

Colombia, meanwhile, showed some attacking promise in their opening defeat to Fiji although they will have to be more clinical if they want to secure a famous victory against Ireland.

Las Tucanes scored only one try from seven visits into the Fijiana 22 and, despite making a similar number of carries (104-109), made fewer than half the number of metres (484-1,095).

Head coach Lissete Martinez has made nine personnel and four positional changes to her starting line-up for Saturday’s match with only fly-half and captain Camila Lopera and centre Maribel Mestra picked in the same position as they played last week.

Loose-head prop Maria Antonia Cortes, hooker Silvia Olave and tight-head Gisel Gomez form an all-new front row, while Sara Velez and Valentina Yepes Pena also come into the pack.

Scrum-half Stefania Sarmiento, centre Luisa Fernanda Zurique and wingers Angie Manyoma and Melisa Rois Mena come into the backs.

Ireland: Méabh Deely; Béibhinn Parsons, Eve Higgins, Aoife Dalton, Natasja Behan; Nicole Fowley, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Christy Haney, Eimear Corri, Sam Monaghan (co-captain), Grace Moore, Edel McMahon (co-captain), Brittany Hogan.

Replacements: Sarah Delaney, Niamh O’Dowd, Megan Collis, Fiona Tuite, Dorothy Wall, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Dannah O’Brien, Leah Tarpey.

Colombia: Leidy García; Melisa Rois Mena, Maribel Mestra, Luisa Fernanda Zurique, Angie Manyoma; Camila Lopera (captain), Stefania Sarmiento; Maria Antonia Cortes, Silvia Olave, Gisel Gomez, Valentina Álvarez, Sara Velez, Angela Alzate, Valentina Yepes Pena, Laura Gutierrez.

Replacements: Natalia Caisedo, Natalia Barajas, Carolina Naranjo, Daniela Roman Quintero, Valeria Muñoz, Laura Villota Noguera, Sofia Granados Cardenas, Maria I. Arzuaga.