The pools and match schedule have been announced for the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens on 21-22 April, round three of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018.
Series leaders Australia are top seeds after their victories in Dubai and Sydney, the latter seeing them become the first team to win their home event in women’s series history and the first team – men’s or women’s – not to concede a point in a series tournament.
Australia will be joined in Pool A by Spain, Ireland and invitational team China, who return to the series for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
New Zealand, who beat Canada to win the inaugural HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens title in 2017, will face France, Dubai runners-up USA and host nation Japan in Pool B.
Canada will tackle Russia, England and Fiji in Pool C at the Mikuni World Stadium.
Russia and England will get the tournament underway at 10:30 local time (GMT+9) on 21 April.
Kitakyushu is the third round of the five on the 2018 series and for five of the teams – Australia, Canada, England, Fiji and New Zealand – will come a week after they take part in the inaugural Commonwealth Games women’s sevens event on Australia’s Gold Coast.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With Tokyo 2020 rapidly approaching, we are excited about a further opportunity to showcase the very best rugby sevens players at the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens.
“After a superb debut last year, the event will only grow in popularity and stature and it will be fascinating to see who will be able to challenge the Olympic champions Australia, who are in great form.”
Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura said: “It gives us great pleasure that, following last year’s successful tournament, the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series will be staged in Kitakyushu city in Japan again this year. We would like to extend our warmest welcome to the players and management arriving from each participating nation.
“Japan’s women’s sevens team, the Sakura Sevens, have been improving their competitiveness towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a target to reach the top eight of this tournament. We are looking forward to seeing the participating teams engaging in fierce competition and witnessing many hard-fought games at the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens, a prelude to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
Australia currently lead the standings with a maximum 40 points, 10 more than defending series champions New Zealand, Canada and Russia.