Rugby sevens will take a step into a new era on Saturday as HSBC SVNS 2024 gets underway with the first of eight tournaments, the Emirates Dubai 7s.
New Zealand arrive at The Sevens Stadium as the reigning champions, having won a women’s record equalling six consecutive tournaments to take the 2023 title in commanding style.
However, Australia have won the last three women’s tournaments to be played in Dubai and they head a queue of teams eager to prise the overall crown from the heads of the Black Ferns Sevens.
Ahead of what promises to be an intriguing season, we take a look at the 12 teams who will line up on the SVNS start line this weekend.
Coach: Tim Walsh
Captain: Charlotte Caslick
Best previous finish: Champions (2015-16, 2018, 2022)
Last season ended in disappointment for the three-time champions, who failed to capitalise on their opening round win in Dubai as they watched New Zealand reel off six successive tournament wins to take the overall title.
However, given they made four of the seven finals on the 2023 series, and possess the most prolific woman in SVNS in Maddison Levi, there is plenty of reason for Tim Walsh and his young squad to head into the new campaign full of confidence.
Add in the experience of captain Charlotte Caslick and her long-time team-mate, Sharni Smale (née Williams), the match-winning ability of Faith Nathan and Bienne Terita, and you have a squad ready to challenge the Black Ferns Sevens once again.
Coach: Will Broderick
Best previous finish: 10th (2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16)
Buoyed by picking up a bronze medal at the Pan American Games and securing their ticket to the Olympic Games Paris 2024 via South American qualifying, Brazil are ready to make their mark on the SVNS circuit.
Will Broderick’s side has never finished higher than 10th but they boast a squad full of experience ahead of the 2024 season.
Opposition defences will have to pay close attention to the likes of Bianca Silva, Luiza Campos and Thalia Costa, who all know their way to the try line.
Coach: Jack Hanratty
Best previous finish: Second (2014-15)
Canada begin SVNS 2024 attempting to get back to the success they enjoyed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having finished only one season off the podium – when they were fourth – between 2012-2020, Jack Hanratty’s new-look side found things tougher going in 2022 and 2023, ending those campaigns seventh and ninth respectively.
Hanratty’s squad has been bolstered by the return from test duty of Florence Symonds, Krissy Scurfield, Olivia Apps and Fancy Bermudez, who was Mastercard Player of the Match in the WXV 1 victory against France. Charity Williams and Alysha Corrigan, meanwhile, provide both experience and firepower.
Coach: Saiasi Fuli
Best previous finish: Third (2022)
Fijiana struggled to find the consistency of their breakthrough 2022 campaign last season, but they head to Dubai with an exciting squad that is ready to rectify that.
Alowesi Nakoci is back following a four-month stint playing in Japan and helped the team secure Olympic qualification at the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship earlier this month.
SVNS fans know all about the talents of Nakoci, World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year nominee Reapi Ulunisau and Ana Maria Naimasi but keep an eye out for Younis Bese, a former Fiji secondary schools 100m champion who provided a glimpse of her try-scoring ability during the 2023 season.
Coach: David Courteix
Captain: Carla Neisen
Best previous finish: Second (2022)
The Paris 2024 hosts will be looking to make their mark on the 2024 series as they prepare for their home Games, and they will do so with a squad packed full of quality.
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2021 Anne-Cécile Ciofani is back in the squad for Dubai and in line to make her first appearance on the circuit in nearly two years.
Captain Carla Neisen, Caroline Drouin and Camille Grassineau have also been included in an experienced and exciting group for the opening two rounds of SVNS 2024, and with Shannon Izar also reportedly closing on a return coach David Corteix will hope his team can end their tournament drought.
Coach: Nick Wakley
Captain: Abbie Brown
Best previous finish: Seventh (2023)
Great Britain’s first full season on the circuit was something of a rollercoaster with the undoubted highlight the team’s bronze medal in Hong Kong.
Megan Jones might have returned to 15s but her co-captain from last season, Abbie Brown will lead an exciting squad into SVNS 2024.
Jasmine Joyce, Lisa Thomson and Rhona Lloyd have all been included having impressed for Wales and Scotland respectively during WXV, while Isla Norman-Bell will hope to build on an encouraging campaign last season.
Coach: Allan Temple-Jones
Captain: Lucy Mulhall
Best previous finish: Fourth (2022)
Ireland recovered from a late season slump to hold off Great Britain and Fiji and secure the final Olympic ticket from the 2023 series in dramatic fashion.
This season they will be looking up, determined to build on the progress made since 2021 and finally scale the top of a tournament podium.
To do that, Ireland will need the likes of Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins to create the space for the prolific Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe and Béibhinn Parsons to hurt their opponents. It should be fun to see how they get on.
Coach: Takashi Suzuki
Captain: Yume Hirano
Best previous finish: Eighth (2023)
Something of a surprise package in 2023, Japan will hope to pick up where they left off last season, having secured their highest ever tournament finish of fifth in Toulouse seven months ago.
A settled squad, featuring impressive captain Yume Hirano, evergreen Chiharu Nakamura and electric backs Wakaba Hara and Michiyo Suda, has since secured their place at Paris 2024 through Asian qualifying.
Coach Takashi Suzuki will hope that can be a springboard for more success during SVNS 2024.
Coach: Cory Sweeney
Captain: Sarah Hirini
Best previous finish: Champions (2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17, 2019, 2020, 2023)
It is impossible to find a superlative that does justice to the dominance of the Black Ferns Sevens on the circuit in 2023.
Having finished as runners-up to arch-rivals Australia in the opening round in Dubai, New Zealand embarked on a global gold rush, scaling the top of the podium at each of the six subsequent tournaments.
Don’t expect the Black Ferns Sevens to let go of their title without a huge fight. The squad selected for this weekend’s tournament in Dubai oozes quality, with the likes of Kelly Brazier, Sarah Hirini and Stacey Waaka set to support speedsters Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.
Coach: Renfred Dazel
Captain: Mathrin Simmers, Zintle Mpupha
Best previous finish: Eighth (2012-13)
Back as a core team on the circuit for only the second time after winning the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series on home soil in April, and first since 2015, South Africa’s target will be to make sure they are still here in 12 months’ time.
The size of that task is highlighted by the fact that four of the 13-player squad selected to travel to Dubai this week have never played at this level before.
One of those series debutants, Libbie Janse van Rensburg, has plenty of test experience under her belt, though. Meanwhile, co-captains Zintle Mpupha and Mathrin Simmers, and backs Nadine Roos and Ayanda Malinga are a match for anyone on their day.
Coach: Alberto Socías
Best previous finish: Sixth (2013-14)
It is now a decade since Spain’s sole top-six finish on the circuit and Las Leonas qualified for only one quarter-final during the 2023 season.
The good news for new coach Alberto Socías this weekend is that came at the opening tournament of the year in Dubai, when they were narrowly beaten to a place in the semi-finals by France.
Former player María Ribera will form part of Socías’ coaching staff for SVNS 2024 and will be keen to help the squad overcome the disappointment of missing out on Olympic qualification with a strong showing on the circuit.
Coach: Emilie Bydwell
Captain: Lauren Doyle, Naya Tapper
Best previous finish: Second (2019)
One of the most consistent teams on the 2023 series, Emilie Bydwell will hope she can help USA turn podium finishes into gold medals during SVNS 2024.
USA missed out on the semi-finals only once in 2023, in Hong Kong, and ran into the immovable object that was New Zealand when they reached the final in Hamilton and Toulouse. Naya Tapper and Kristi Kirshe gave Women’s Eagles Sevens fans reason to dream in the latter, only for the Black Ferns Sevens to roar back during the second half at Stade Ernest-Wallon.
Injured Kirshe will be a big miss in Dubai and Cape Town, but co-captains Tapper and Lauren Doyle lead a talented squad that features Alev Kelter, Cheta Emba and the totemic Ilona Maher.