Three players will make their HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series debuts in Sao Paulo next weekend after USA coach Jules McCoy named Rachel Griendling, Ashley Perry and Naya Tapper in her 12-strong squad for round two.
Ryan Carlyle and Joanne Fa’avesi both come back into the squad, while McCoy gets to see Bui Baravilala (main picture) in action for the first time as the Women’s Eagles Sevens look to bounce back from a disappointing opening round in Dubai when won just one match and finished 11th.
“We are trying to build depth in our pool by adding some new caps,” said McCoy. “We are moving players around some to assess their versatility under pressure in case of future injury, preparing for the best and the worst situations going forward.
“A healthy Bui gives us experience in the midfield. She is a talented, passionate player, and she is excited to get back on the circuit. Joanne is a physical player and quite versatile – she has been working very hard to get back into the starting 12 and is getting her reward.”
As part of their preparations for round two in Brazil, the USA held some sessions with neighbours Canada in January at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and new core team Japan have been in California this week.
“We have made progress but won’t be satisfied until our outcomes improve,” McCoy added. “The players are more comfortable in the new systems, but now they look to personalise the approach by making the new schemes their own.
“Our team identity, in the end, will be created by the players themselves. I’m excited to see what they come up with.”
USA will face series and world champions New Zealand, Dubai runners-up Russia and Spain in Pool B at the Arena Barueri on 20-21 February.
USA squad: Bui Baravilala, Megan Bonny, Ryan Carlyle, Joanne Fa'avesi, Rachel Griendling, Kelly Griffin, Jessica Javelet, Alev Kelter, Ashley Perry, Jillion Potter (captain), Naya Tapper, Kristen Thomas.
Star names return for New Zealand
Huriana Manuel (pictured) and Kayla McAlister will make their HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series return in Sao Paulo after being named in New Zealand’s squad.
Former captain Manuel has been out for 18 months with a serious ankle injury, while McAlister (neck) has also been out for a lengthy period and missed the opening round of the series Dubai in December last month when New Zealand finished fifth.
That equalled New Zealand’s worst placing in four editions of the series, but coach Sean Horan insists it has fuelled the team’s desire to bounce back by defending their title in Sao Paulo.
“Dubai proved you can’t be off your game at any point,” Horan said. “The series is getting increasingly competitive so we’ll be looking for quality and consistency in all aspects of our game. This is a really important year for us so we want to do well in Sao Paulo as we head towards Rio.”
New Zealand will head to Florida on Sunday for a training camp, a dry run to their base ahead of the Olympic Games in July, and then stop off in Rio de Janeiro to familiarise themselves with the city where they will go for gold from 6-8 August.
Honey Hireme and Stacey Waaka will travel with the team as reserves, but others members of their 2016 contracted group are injured in Carla Hohepa, Lesley Ketu, Shiray Tane and Jordon Webber.
“We’re looking forward to the training camp in Florida as we’ll be back there in July so this will be a good learning experience for us,” explained Horan, whose side will face Dubai runners-up Russia, Spain and USA in Pool B at the Arena Barueri.
“We’re also excited to be spending time in Rio as this will help our players understand how the city is shaping up for the Olympic Games and give them a taste of how big this event will be.
“All this will really help our preparations. We’re leaving no stone unturned as we aim to be in the best possible shape come August.”
New Zealand squad: Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Sarah Goss (captain), Kayla McAlister, Huriana Manuel, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Hazel Tubic, Ruby Tui, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams, Portia Woodman.