New Zealand coach Cory Sweeney has backed his players to perform as the women’s HSBC SVNS 2024 League Winners target Grand Final success in Madrid.

Following seven scintillating regular season rounds eight teams remain in the hunt for the Championship title at this weekend’s winner-takes-all finale at Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano.

Alongside the competition for the overall series crown, a further eight teams have arrived in the Spanish capital bidding to secure their place in next season’s series via the HSBC SVNS Play-off tournament.

It means every team has something to play for, and every point matters, but Sweeney insists the Black Ferns Sevens will treat Madrid like any other tournament.

“Every time we wear the black jersey we want to perform; this is no different,” Sweeney said.

“We have managed the last few weeks really well, we want to use Madrid as an opportunity to strengthen combinations, feel and deal with pressure and perform.”

Playing under pressure will certainly be useful preparation for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, where the Black Ferns Sevens’ title defence will kick-off on 28 July.

Before Sweeney and his players can think about Paris, though, they have a crucial tournament to play around 1,200 kilometres to the south.

New Zealand are the form team heading into the final tournament of the season, having reeled off four consecutive titles to pip Australia to the regular season crown.

Sweeney has made one change to his squad ahead of the Grand Final, with Tenika Willison coming in for the injured Shiray Kaka.

Standing between the League Winners and a place in the semi-finals in Madrid are Pool A rivals USA, Canada and Great Britain.

Ciaran Beattie’s Great Britain were the eighth and final team to confirm their place in the Grand Final and provide New Zealand’s opposition in their opening match on Friday (kick-off 18:42 local time, GMT+2).

The Black Ferns Sevens have won all 10 of their previous series encounters with Great Britain by an aggregate score of 29-5.

Immediately before that match, Pool A will get underway with a North American blockbuster between USA and Canada.

USA have won three of their last five meetings with their neighbours, but Canada lead the historic head-to-head with 24 wins to their rivals’ 16 (with one draw).

The Women’s Eagles Sevens have enjoyed a successful 2024 series, reaching four Cup semi-finals across the regular season. However, they were only able to finish 10th in Singapore earlier this month.

Canada, meanwhile, finished three places better off after beating Great Britain in the seventh-place play-off.

It was confirmed on Monday that Jocelyn Barrieau would step up from assistant to replace outgoing head coach Jack Hanratty after Paris 2024.

Hanratty has included Olivia Apps, Fancy Bermudez and Madison Grant in his Madrid squad after the trio starred during Canada’s victorious World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2024 campaign. Asia Hogan-Rochester and Florence Symonds are also back following injury.

“Our squad has had the Grand Final circled on our calendars all season,” Hanratty said.

“The buy in and unrelenting dedication of all the players in our programme, as well as continued learning throughout the season from our highs and our lows, have been key to getting us to where we are, with our team continuing to aim higher and higher.

“In Madrid we look to put forward another performance that we are proud of and to continue to establish ourselves amongst the top nations.”

Caslick back in gold

Charlotte Caslick has given Australia a timely boost as they look to overcome the disappointment of missing out on the League Winners title by claiming the Championship in Madrid.

Caslick – the first woman to play in 50 series tournaments – missed her side’s run to the silver medal in Singapore due to what Rugby Australia described as “niggling injuries”.

The Rio 2016 gold medallist returns to the squad for the Grand Final alongside 15s star Bienne Terita.

Their inclusions offset the loss of Madison Ashby and Lily Dick to ACL injuries and the continued absence of Sharni Smale and Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea.

Australia begin their Grand Final campaign against Ireland on Friday (kick-off 13:51 local time) and will also play France and Fiji in Pool B.

"Madrid serves up another opportunity to perform, learn and prepare ourselves against the world’s best,” head coach Tim Walsh said.

"The prospect of a shootout with the top eight teams in the world provides prestige and an excitement never experienced before."

Regular season runners-up Australia have recent experience against their Pool C opponents, having played all three in Singapore earlier this month.

Maddison Levi scored three of her side’s 10 tries as they brushed aside Fiji 60-0 in the pool stage before a 24-14 defeat of Ireland in the Cup quarter-finals set up a meeting with France.

Australia needed a late Faith Nathan try to edge past Les Bleues Sevens 19-12 in the semi-finals but those results bode well for Madrid.

France were the closest team to Australia and New Zealand in the final regular season standings but despite reaching Cup finals in Cape Town and Vancouver they are still searching for their first tournament win.

David Courteix’s side are sure to be there or thereabouts again this weekend, though, and with the try-scoring talents of Anne-Cécile Ciofani and Séraphine Okemba can never be counted out.

Ireland possess a number of potential match-winners themselves as Béibhinn Parsons returns from 15s duty alongside Katie Corrigan, who could make her SVNS debut in Madrid.

Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe, meanwhile, is joint fifth on the 2024 try-scoring list with 26 so far this season and will captain her country at the home of Atlético Madrid.

HSBC SVNS 2025 tickets up for grabs

South Africa’s bid for SVNS safety has been boosted by the inclusion of Sizophila Solontsi, Libbie Janse van Rensburg, Veroeshka Grain and Byrhandrè Dolf in Renfred Dazel’s squad.

The Springbok Women’s Sevens are one of eight teams competing in Madrid for one of four available places on HSBC SVNS 2025.

South Africa finished the regular season 11th out of 12 teams in the SVNS 2024 standings and will therefore line up in Pool B of the Play-off tournament, alongside Brazil, Argentina and Belgium.

Brazil finished one place above South Africa in the SVNS standings and lead the teams’ head-to-head four wins to three – although the Springbok Women’s Sevens won their most recent encounter, in Los Angeles.

Argentina and Belgium, meanwhile, came through the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024, finishing the series second and third respectively.

“We have played Belgium often in recent years – in fact, they come to Stellenbosch for a training camp every year and have sessions against us,” Dazel said.

“They have tall players and love an offloading game. Brazil and Argentina have the same South American style of play and they love to play off rucks, for example.

“We have prepared accordingly, and I believe that we have what it takes to top the pool, so we leave for Madrid with a clear plan and calm heads.”

In Pool A, Challenger winners China will hope to maintain their unstoppable momentum in Madrid as they take on Japan, Spain and Poland.

China lost just once in 18 matches en route to winning all three Challenger tournaments in 2024, beating Poland in the Krakow final only two weeks ago.

Japan will start as favourites to top the pool having qualified for the Cup quarter-finals in back-to-back SVNS tournaments in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Hosts Spain endured a much tougher season, finishing bottom of the standings and 22 points adrift of safety.

They will hope playing at home proves as inspiring to them as it did to Poland’s players in the final Challenger tournament earlier this month. The home side’s run to the final in Krakow ultimately booked their ticket to Madrid.

See the HSBC SVNS champions crowned in Madrid, 31 May-2 June. Tickets from €10 are available to purchase here