We profile the teams who are set to play in the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019 opener in Glendale this weekend, from series champions Australia to new core team China and series debutants Mexico.
Coach: John Manenti
Captains: Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams
Twitter handle: @Aussie7s
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 1
With the experience of co-captains Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams, the vision of former World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Charlotte Caslick and the pace of Ellia Green, Australia will be hoping to hit the ground running just as they did last season with victories in Dubai and Sydney setting them on the road to a second series title. The Olympic champions will, though, be missing Emilee Cherry, Alicia Quirk and Emma Tonegato as they continue their recovery from surgery which gives the younger players in the squad another chance to shine.
INTERVIEW: @RugbyCanada captain @ghis_landry is ready for an important year ahead with @Olympics#Tokyo2020 qualification at stake in #HSBC7s, starting with #USAW7s in Glendale pic.twitter.com/v2i5yYdKLw— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) October 18, 2018
Coach: John Tait
Captain: Ghislaine Landry
Twitter handle: @RugbyCanada
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series final placing: 4
John Tait’s side will be looking to rediscover that winning feeling after a mixed campaign in 2018 which saw them claim two bronze medals but also miss out on the Cup quarter-finals for the first time in series history in Kitakyushu. Canada have a settled squad with a strong backbone of experience and dynamic runners like Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields and Charity Williams who can strike from anywhere, although Hannah Darling's decision to retire from the national team deprives them of a talented young player. Ghislaine Landry, who needs only 16 points to become the first to score 1,000 points in series history, is a pivotal figure with Canada a much different proposition when their talisman and captain is missing.
Coach: Chad Shepherd
Captain: Yan Meiling
Twitter handle: @CRFAChinaRugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 12
China return to the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series as a core team after a dominant display at the qualifier in Hong Kong in April which saw them beat South Africa 31-14 in the final thanks to a hat-trick from Chen Keyi. A fortnight later Chen was at the heart of China’s run to a first-ever series Cup quarter-final appearance in Kitakyushu, where the Asian side showed plenty of pace and handling skills to ensure that no team will underestimate them in Glendale. With their entire squad under the age of 25, China can only improve with regular competition against the best sides in the world.
Coach: James Bailey
Captain: Abbie Brown
Twitter handle: @EnglandRugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 8
Winners of the first series tournament held on USA soil in Houston back in 2013, England have enjoyed mixed fortunes over the last couple of years, showing glimpses of form but also missing out on the top eight on several occasions to regularly find themselves battling for Challenge Trophy honours rather than titles despite the return to sevens of star names like Emily Scarratt and Natasha Hunt. Ten tournaments have passed since England last reached a Cup semi-final and with five debutants in Glendale – all aged 22 or under – they will need to gel quickly if they are to break that run.
Coach: Alifereti Dovivereta
Captain: Sereima Leweniqila
Twitter handle: @FijiRugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 9
Fiji’s women, just like their men’s team, are a joy to watch when everything comes together and the simple tactic of offloading out of tackles and creating space for others results in some mesmerising, often long-range, tries. The Fijiana squad in Glendale bears little resemblance to that of RWC Sevens 2018 with just Ana Maria Naimasi and Mereula Torooti retaining their place under new interim head coach Alifereti Dovivereta. The vocal Fijian fans will certainly be hoping that Dovivereta and his new captain Sereima Leweniqila can help the side recapture the form that saw them finish fourth in the 2016-17 series.
Coach: David Courteix
Captain: Montserrat Amédée
Nickname: Les Bleues
Twitter handle: @FFRugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 3
Les Bleues appear to have discovered the formula for consistency after reaching the Cup semi-finals in their last four events, including at RWC Sevens 2018 where they lost in the title decider to New Zealand, just as they had in their first ever series Cup final in Kitakyushu. Montserrat Amédée will share the captaincy with the experienced Fanny Horta this season, but little else has changed in a settled France side. With stalwarts like Horta and Marjorie Mayans leading by example, Chloe Pelle leading by example alongside another stalwart in Marjorie Mayans, Chloe Pelle making powerful breaks and Amédée scoring tries for fun, it only seems a matter of time before France turn silver into gold for the first time.
Coach: Anthony Eddy
Captain: Lucy Mulhall
Twitter handle: @IrishRugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 10
Ireland have made steady improvement over the last three years as a result of their core team status on the world series, but often find themselves missing out on a quarter-final place by small margins to leave them battling for Challenge Trophy honours instead. They won the Trophy twice – in Dubai and Paris – and were runners-up in Kitakyushu where they impressively beat Canada. Led by Lucy Mulhall, Ireland have a lethal finisher in Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe who has pace to burn and needs just one try to become the first Irish player to score 50 series tries. The likes of Stacey Flood and Hannah Tyrrell add plenty of experience, while 19-year-old Eve Higgins is one of an exciting crop of young players who have a bright future ahead of them.
Coach: Simon Pierre
Captain: Karina Landeros
Nickname: Las Serpientes
Twitter handle: @Rugby_Mexico
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: Did not play
Mexican rugby celebrates another first this weekend as Las Serpientes become the 23rd team to play on the women’s series. Women’s rugby has grown exponentially in a short space of time in Mexico and qualification for a first RWC Sevens has helped accelerate that growth. They may have failed to score a point in San Francisco, but will have learnt plenty from the rare chance to mix it with the world’s best players and, fresh from the successful defence of their Rugby Americas North Sevens title defence, will be eager to break their duck in Glendale under coach Simon Pierre.
INTERVIEW: @BlackFerns captain @Sgoss10 on the inspiration they've drawn from watching U18 team win #youtholympics gold and their own desire to start #HSBC7s season well at #USAW7s on their own qualification road to #Tokyo2020pic.twitter.com/ME3CQ5M4VR— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) October 18, 2018
Coach: Allan Bunting
Captain: Sarah Goss
Nickname: Black Ferns Sevens
Twitter handle: @BlackFerns
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 2
The Black Ferns Sevens will arrive in Colorado as the in-form team and on a 27-match unbeaten run that has brought them Cup titles in Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris as well as Commonwealth Games gold and back-to-back RWC Sevens crowns. That run wasn’t enough to deny Australia a second series crown, but with a perfect blend of physical power, sheer pace, x-factor and experience when it comes to finals and knock-out rugby, the most successful team in women’s sevens history will take some beating. The squad is littered with star names, from captain Sarah Goss and Niall Williams to the lethal finishing duo of Portia Woodman and Michaela Blyde, the World Rugby Women’s Players of the Year in 15s and sevens respectively in 2017.
Coach: Andrey Kuzin
Captain: Alena Mikhaltsova
Twitter handle: @RugbyRussia
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 6
Russia have made a habit of starting the season well, earning three bronze and one silver medal across the opening rounds of the last five series. They fell away towards the end of the 2018 series to slip from third to sixth in the overall standings, but remain a settled team with plenty of experience throughout. Captain Alena Mikhaltsova is the heartbeat of the Russian side and they are a shadow of themselves without her. She has the vision, drive and pace to turn something into nothing, collecting two DHL Impact Player awards in Dubai and Kitakyushu last season.
Coach: Pedro de Matías
Captain: Bárbara Plà
Nickname: Las Leonas
Twitter handle: @FERugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 7
The highlight of Spain’s 2018 series was undoubtedly reaching the Cup semi-finals in Kitakyushu, their first appearance at that stage since the inaugural series event in Dubai back in 2012. This was one of four quarter-finals reached by Las Leonas, a huge improvement on none the previous season. An experienced core group of players are at the heart of Spanish women’s rugby, but they will be without the inspirational Patricia García, a member of the HSBC Dream Team for the 2018 series, in Glendale as she has spent the last two months playing in Japan so others will need to provide the spark that she so often does. They do, though, welcome 17-year-old Lide Erbina into the squad to join her older sister Amaia in the national jersey.
Coach: Chris Brown
Co-captains: Nicole Heavirland and Lauren Doyle
Nickname: Women’s Sevens Eagles
Twitter handle: @USARugby
HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 final placing: 5
What better place to claim a first series title than on home soil this weekend? The Women’s Eagles Sevens have twice been beaten finalists when the series has touched down in the US and they were also runners-up in the 2018 series opener in Dubai after shocking New Zealand in the quarter-finals. They have a new coach at the helm in Chris Brown and Lauren Doyle now sharing the captaincy with Nicole Heavirland, while the hosts will also welcome back Alev Kelter after the playmaker missed RWC Sevens through injury and give three players their series debuts in Alena Olsen, Steph Rossetti and Lauren Thunen.