The squads have been announced for the fifth and final round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018, which kicks off at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris on Friday to begin three days of intense rugby sevens action in a combined event with the men’s series finale.
With Australia leading perennial rivals New Zealand by just four points in the standings, the stage is set for an epic climax to the series.
Australia have shown remarkable consistency across the series having been on the podium at all four rounds, and they will claim the series title if they reach the final in Paris. Australia secured the gold medals in the first two rounds in Dubai and on home soil in Sydney, followed by bronze in Kitakyushu (Japan) and silver last time out in Langford (Canada).
New Zealand are hot on their heels and will enter Paris full of confidence following victories at the previous two rounds of the series in Japan and Canada. With an attack featuring this season’s leading points (180) and try scorer (36) Portia Woodman, New Zealand will be looking to capitalise on any slip up by Australia and finish the series in style to claim a fifth title in six years.
Commonwealth Games gold medallists New Zealand will face England and Ireland, placed eighth and ninth in the standings respectively, along with invitational team Wales in Pool A.
In Pool B, Australia have been paired with Canada, who were bronze medallists in Sydney and will be led by the experience of captain and series all-time leading point scorer Ghislaine Landry, as well as Fiji and Russia, who were bronze medallists in Dubai.
Meanwhile, in Pool C hosts France, who are currently third in the standings, will face USA, who have twice reached the podium in this series with silver in Dubai and bronze in Langford, as well as Kitakyushu semi-finalists Spain and Japan.
At the other end of the standings, relegation matters will be resolved as one team will drop out of the core teams for the 2019 series to be replaced by China following their victory at the qualifier in Hong Kong in April. Japan currently occupy the relegation spot and begin the Paris event 13 points behind Fiji.
Play will get under way at 14:00 local time (GMT+2) on Friday when New Zealand take on England in Pool A. The quarter-finals and semi-finals will take place on Saturday with the finals held on Sunday.