Having stormed to HSBC SVNS 2025 qualification earlier this month, China will start the women’s World Rugby Sevens Repechage 2024 as favourites to secure their place at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

But the team’s high-performance consultant Gordon Tietjens, the most decorated coach in the history of rugby sevens, has warned the China squad that the shortened format “can be ruthless”.

China confirmed their return to the world series in stunning fashion this year. They won 17 of 18 matches in the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 to claim all three tournament titles and comfortably book their place at the HSBC SVNS Play-off.

Lu Zhuan’s side then made sure of promotion by winning all four matches in Madrid, including a decisive 33-0 defeat of Belgium.

It means China are the form team heading into this weekend’s 12-team repechage in Monaco but with only one ticket to Paris 2024 up for grabs, Tietjens is well aware one bad performance could derail their Olympic hopes.

“I know the Olympics is the dream,” Tietjens told World Rugby. “And again, it comes down to a one-off tournament. You've just got to hit every game, tick the box and treat it like another tournament, and we'll do that and give it our very, very best.

“It has been a particularly good season for the China women's sevens team. I think the coaching team have done a really, really good job. I think the athletes themselves; they can be proud of their performances.

“But again, the sport can be ruthless at any given time. And we've just got to attack one game at a time, starting with Mexico on Friday night.”

China finished seventh on their Olympic debut in Tokyo three years ago, and their bid to get back to the Games will begin against Mexico at 13:24 local time (GMT+2) at Stade Louis II on Friday.

Tietjens warned anyone thinking that Mexico would be the “easy-beats of the pool” that they could be in for a shock.

“Those are the danger teams,” he insisted. “It doesn’t happen that way in sevens.”

Saturday’s opponents, Czechia and Poland, should represent a step up in difficulty for China, however.

Although they endured a disappointing Challenger campaign, Czechia beat Spain to a place in the repechage, while Poland qualified for the SVNS Play-off in Madrid only to miss out on promotion.

“We haven't got an easy pool,” Tietjens added. “But, as a coach, I actually like tough pools. I think you've got to get up to win them.

“You're not complacent, you know, you go out there to attack one game at a time. You treat every game like a final – and that's how we've got to attack this tournament.”

Argentina, Kenya renew rivalry

The 12 teams in Monaco have been split into three pools, with the top two at the end of the pool stage qualifying for the Cup quarter-finals alongside the two best third-place finishers.

It looks sure to be an intense competition for those two spots in Pool A as two teams who know each other well from the Sevens Challenger, Argentina and Kenya, take on Samoa.

Argentina finished second behind China in the 2024 Challenger standings to qualify for the SVNS Play-off but their quest for promotion was ended by a 26-12 defeat to Japan at Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano.

They will hope to use the pain of that loss as motivation in Monaco but will need no reminding that Kenya won both of the teams’ meetings in this year’s Challenger.

Lionesses Sevens head coach Dennis Mwanja has been able to welcome back Grace Okulu and Janet Okelo to an otherwise settled squad for Monaco.

Kenya beat Las Yaguaretés Sevens 17-0 in the Cup semi-finals at The Sevens Stadium in January and then 22-5 in the quarter-finals in Poland four months later.

Despite finishing second and fourth in those two tournaments, Kenya missed out on a place in the overall top four by two points.

Whoever wins the latest meeting between the sides in Monaco on Saturday (kick-off 18:44 local time) will give themselves a great chance to reach the quarter-finals.

That match is the last one of the pool stage, with Argentina opening their campaign against Samoa at 16:44 local time on Friday and Kenya playing the same opponents at 13:20 local time the following day.

Papua New Guinea had been due to line up in Pool A in Monaco as well, however, their withdrawal was confirmed on Tuesday.

A World Rugby statement read: “While disappointing for all concerned, the decision was made for reasons including player welfare, due to the teams not securing the necessary travel documentation to meet their pre-tournament arrival deadline.

“In accordance with the Terms of Participation agreement and in alignment with other World Rugby Sevens events, all pool matches involving Papua New Guinea will be treated as void with no points awarded.”

All to play for in Pool B

In Pool B, Jamaica – who were forced to withdraw from the 2021 repechage in Monaco – face competition from another three teams who took part in the 2024 Challenger, Uganda, Paraguay and Hong Kong China.

Uganda are the form team in the pool. The Lady Cranes Sevens ultimately fell four points short of qualifying for the SVNS Play-off in Madrid, but their Challenger campaign ended with a 35-5 victory against Paraguay in the seventh-place play-off in Krakow.

Their performance in the final round in Poland dropped the Lady Cranes Sevens out of the top four to sixth, but they finished the season three places and 26 points better off than Pool B rivals Hong Kong China. Paraguay were a place and point below the Asian side in 10th.

Uganda had lost to Paraguay 17-14 during the Krakow pool stage, though, and they needed a late Agnes Nakuya try to beat Hong Kong China 22-17 in the teams’ only meeting this season, in Montevideo in March.

That suggests there is all to play for when the sides come face-to-face once again at Stade Louis II this weekend.

Hong Kong China won their only match against Paraguay in the 2024 Challenger 17-0 in Dubai in January, and the teams renew their rivalry at 13:48 local time on day one in Monaco. Uganda then take on Jamaica in the next match.

On day two, Hong Kong China play Jamaica at 10:48 local time before Uganda take on Paraguay.

Jamaica end their pool campaign against Paraguay (kick-off 15:48 local time) and Hong Kong China and the Lady Cranes Sevens will both hope they remain in contention for the quarter-finals when they meet at 18:20 local time.