With one day to go until the HSBC USA Women's Sevens gets underway at Infinity Park, we've picked seven players to light up the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019.
MICHAELA BLYDE (NEW ZEALAND)
Where else to start than with the DHL Impact Player of the Series – for the second year running – and the World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year 2017? Michaela Blyde scored 37 tries in the series, bettered only by her team-mate Portia Woodman, and then scooped the top try-scorer award and player of the final accolade at RWC Sevens 2018 where she was simply unstoppable. With the quick feet and lightning pace she honed in athletics training before turning to rugby, the 22-year-old is sure to be tormenting defences again this year and targeting more gold with the Black Ferns Sevens.
GHISLAINE LANDRY (CANADA)
The Canada captain was told by many coaches in her early career that she was too small to play rugby at the highest level, but coach John Tait recognised the tenacity and determination that have helped her become one of the best sevens players in the world. The 'pocket-rocket' needs just 16 points in Glendale to become the first to reach 1,000 points in women's series history and put simply makes Canada tick, providing not only a calming presence on the field but also the vision and pace that are a lethal combination for any sevens player – especially one as hungry for success as Ghislaine Landry.
NAYA TAPPER (USA)
Another player closing in on a record is Naya Tapper, the speedster needing just six tries to become USA's leading try scorer in women's series history after scoring 26 tries last season to take her career tally to 59. A former athlete blessed with power, strength and no shortage of pace, the 24-year-old is not a player opponents should give room to because once she gets the ball in space she is very hard to stop and many an attempted tackler have found themselves bounced off or left behind. If the Women's Eagles Sevens are to claim a first series title in Glendale this weekend, then Tapper is likely to be running in tries for fun.
EVANIA PELITE (AUSTRALIA)
The 23-year-old may at times fly somewhat under the radar with much of her hard work going unseen, but the fact that she was this week named as Australia's Women's Sevens Player of the Year shows how important Evania Pelite is to the success of series and Olympic champions Australia. Her ability to burst through the defensive line and use her pace to race clear has been the undoing of many teams and, when combined with her determination and desire to win, means she can always be found in the heart of the action.
CHEN KEYI (CHINA)
A key factor in China's success at the series qualifier in Hong Kong and their run to a first-ever Cup quarter-final two weeks later in Kitakyushu, Chen has the pace, power and skill-set to create opportunities for herself and her team-mates. One of the oldest members of China's squad at only 23-years-old, Chen made the Dream Team in Kitakyushu and will be one player that New Zealand, USA and England will want to keep an eye on during their Pool B matches on Saturday at Infinity Park.
ALENA MIKHALTSOVA (RUSSIA)
The heartbeat of a Russian side that are a shadow of themselves when she isn't pulling the strings and popping up out wide to finish off tries from anywhere. Determined in defence and blessed with pace and vision to turn nothing into vital points for herself or her team-mates, captain Mikhaltsova will need to be on top of her game if Russia are to win a medal at the opening round for the fourth series in succession. The 24-year-old was named DHL Impact Player twice last season, in both Dubai and Kitakyushu, scoring 11 tries – including a record-equalling five against England – in the latter, showcasing the value of her work-rate to the European champions.
ELLIE KILDUNNE (ENGLAND)
Nine tries in eight test matches on the wing for England over the last 12 months give a clear indication of the try-scoring prowess that Ellie Kildunne possesses, but the 19-year-old has now made the switch from 15s to sevens and been awarded a professional contract after finishing her A Levels and will hope to make the same start in the sevens format. One of five young players who will make their series debuts for England in Glendale, Kildunne has plenty of pace to burn and could provide the spark that makes her nation title contenders again after a difficult few seasons.