Singapore National Stadium will play host to a women’s series tournament for the first time this weekend and the stage is set for a stunning HSBC SVNS 2024 regular season finale.

At the top of the standings, New Zealand arrive in Singapore tied on 106 points with Australia but first by virtue of their superior points difference (+637 to +580).

It means that whoever goes further in the tournament over the next three days will head to the Grand Final in Madrid as League Winners.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the standings, all eyes will be on Saturday’s Pool C showdown between Great Britain and Brazil.

Great Britain start the weekend eighth, but only two points better off than their South American rivals meaning they cannot afford to slip up if they are to avoid competing in the promotion-relegation in Madrid between 31 May – 2 June.

Walsh keen to challenge squad

Australia will play a world series tournament without both Charlotte Caslick and Sharni Smale for the first time in six years in Singapore.

With one eye on the Olympic Games Paris 2024, the experienced duo have remained in Australia with Madison Ashby taking on the captaincy.

The last time neither Caslick nor Smale were part of an Australia squad for a series tournament was back in April 2018, when the team finished third in Kitakyushu.

New Zealand won that tournament and a repeat in Singapore this weekend would confirm their trans-Tasman rivals as League Winners.

However, coach Tim Walsh is looking forward to seeing how his charges fare without Caslick and Smale to lean on.

“They’ve had a big load this season, especially if you look at the red cards that we’ve had this year, Charlotte and Sharni have had to play a lot of minutes in a lot of tournaments," he said.

“It’s definitely a challenge or a bonus contingency to do as we’ve played the whole season with Charlotte and the whole ‘Triple Crown’ with Charlotte and Sharni so to challenge the group and build their confidence around that, it’s a very positive factor.

“We want the team to have the opportunity to play without them and really build some sort of character and experience leading into Madrid and the Olympics.”

Australia will get their Singapore campaign underway against Brazil at 12:50 local time (GMT+8) on Friday before encounters with Great Britain and Fiji in Pool C.

Both title-chasing Australia and Fiji are guaranteed of a place in the top eight at the Grand Final in Madrid next month, but Great Britain and Brazil head into the regular season finale separated by only two points in eighth and ninth respectively.

It means the teams’ pool-stage encounter, scheduled to kick-off at 12:28 local time on Saturday, could prove pivotal to their hopes of avoiding the promotion-relegation tournament in Madrid.

Jasmine Joyce and Rhona Lloyd have been recalled to the Great Britain squad following their Guinness Women’s Six Nations commitments, in what is a huge boost for Ciaran Beattie’s squad.

Black Ferns Sevens target glory

The Black Ferns Sevens, meanwhile, have welcomed back Alena Saili from injury as they chase a fourth successive tournament title.

Following, by their lofty standards, a slow start to HSBC SVNS 2024, New Zealand roared into life in Vancouver and have not looked back.

Subsequent victories in Los Angeles and Hong Kong mean their fate is in their own hands as they bid to leave Singapore as League Winners.

The Black Ferns Sevens have not lost a match since day two of Perth in January and they need only better Australia’s performance to get their hands on yet more silverware.

Cory Sweeney’s side kick-off their weekend in Singapore against Spain at 12:06 local time on Friday and will also play Ireland and Canada in Pool A.

Eve Higgins is set to return to SVNS action in Singapore, having helped Ireland to Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 qualification during the Women’s Six Nations.

Higgins was a key component of the Irish squad that topped the podium in Perth and is parachuted straight back into a squad that also includes the uncapped Amy Larn.

Canada, meanwhile, welcome back Olympian Keyara Wardley following a long-term injury lay-off while there is also a place for Eden Kilgour, who made her series debut in France last year.

Spain complete the pool and will want a strong performance as they prepare for the promotion-relegation tournament in Madrid.

Coaches María Ribera and Alberto Socías have made four changes to the Spain squad that finished 11th in Hong Kong with Anael Fernández Terenzi in line to make her SVNS debut in Singapore.

France, USA set for reunion

HSBC SVNS Singapore will get underway at 11:00 local time (GMT+8) on Friday, when France take on Japan, before USA meet South Africa immediately afterwards.

The standout match in the pool will take place on Saturday (kick-off 11:22 local time) as USA play France in a repeat of their Hong Kong Cup semi-final.

The Women’s Eagles Sevens won that match 19-5 but head to Singapore National Stadium one place and six points adrift of France, in fourth place.

USA coach Emilie Bydwell has included the uncapped Jessica Lu while there is a return for Olympian Nicole Heavirland following a leg injury sustained in Perth.

In the absence of Naya Tapper and Ariana Ramsey, who remained in Chula Vista as part of their rehab from injury, Joanne Fa’avesi has been named in the squad for the first time this season.

France have also included a potential SVNS debutant, Cléo Hagel, in their 13-player squad as they continue their quest for a maiden Cup title.

Coach David Courteix is again without Women’s Six Nations stars Anne-Cécile Ciofani, Chloé Jacquet and Joanna Grisez but he is confident his team is on the right path ahead of the Grand Final in Madrid.

“My conviction that we are on the right track, despite the absence of a [tournament] victory, is based on objective elements linked to performance standards,” Courteix said.

“It is also based on my observation of daily life, the eye I have on the technical, tactical and strategic progress of the team and the athletes.

“Finally, it is based on a feeling, an intuition which is undoubtedly based on my experience.”

Both Japan and South Africa – who meet at 11:00 local time on Saturday – need a huge result to have any chance of avoiding playing in the promotion-relegation tournament in Madrid but will want to finish the regular season with momentum.

South Africa co-captain Mathrin Simmers will play her 20th series tournament in Singapore while speedster Maria Tshiremba returns for the first time since Vancouver following injury.

Eloise Webb and Felicia Jacobs are also back in the Springbok Women’s Sevens squad.

“Maria can finish, make no mistake,” coach Renfred Dazel said. “It is only her first season on the circuit and she made some mistakes, but her attacking ability is clear for all to see.

“I can recall her match winning try against Great Britain in Perth and how that victory gave the squad confidence, so we will be looking at more of the same from her.”