The Black Ferns Sevens have been the dominant force in the women's game for the last 12 months, winning six successive titles on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, defending their Rugby World Cup Sevens crown and claiming the first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal.
They have won 36 matches in a row on the series since being humbled 31-0 by Australia in the HSBC Sydney Sevens final in January 2018, 49 in total if you include RWC Sevens, the Commonwealth Games and the Fast Four invitational tournament in Hamilton in January 2019.
That leaves them one short of the 37-match run they put together between April 2014 and May 2015, one that also was preceded by a loss to Australia in a Cup final, this time in Sao Paulo. On that occasion, it was a surprise 19-15 defeat to Spain in the pool stages in London that brought the Black Ferns Sevens' run to an end.
New Zealand open their bid for a third successive HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens title against hosts and invitational team Japan on Saturday, and even with a few star names missing through injury – including two-time World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year and 2019 series top try-scorer Michaela Blyde – they will be expected to equal their record run.
That leaves Russia, a side they have only lost to once in 20 series meetings, standing between them and a new benchmark.
If they can preserve their winning run in Kitakyushu then they will be closing in on the men's series record of 47 victories set by New Zealand from May 2007 to April 2008.
We've delved a little deeper into the statistics of both runs, and while they show the dominance of the Black Ferns Sevens, they also show some subtle changes in approach as the women's game has grown exponentially in the years between the runs.
As the table below shows, the scoring statistics across the runs are similar, but the current crop of players have conceded fewer points and tries.
In both winning sequences, the Black Ferns Sevens have kept the opposition scoreless on 10 occasions. The average winning margin is also similar, as the table below shows, but in terms of the margin of victory it is the class of 2018-19 that have a slight edge with two-thirds of their 36 matches in the current run won by 21 points or more as opposed to 21 matches in the period between 2014 and 2015.
In fact, only 11 of the 73 matches played across the runs have been won by less than seven points, seven in 2014-15 and four in 2018-19.
Canada have scored the most points against the Black Ferns Sevens in both runs, losing 24-22 in the Cup semi-final in Atlanta in March 2015 and then 28-19 at the same stage in the 2019 series opener in Glendale last October.
|Average winning margin||23.9 points||24.4 points|
|Matches won by seven or more points||30||32|
|Matches won by 21 or more points||21||24|
New Zealand will, once Kitakyushu kicks off, have used a total of 33 players across the two runs, 21 players in each sequence, with only captain Sarah Hirini and play-maker Tyla Nathan-Wong (pictured above) having played in every tournament across both.
Seventeen players scored tries in the 2014-15 winning run, Portia Woodman dotting down an incredible 59 tries in total – including four hat-tricks and two five-try hauls – and scoring in all bar five of the 37 matches. Sixteen players have scored tries so far in the current run with Blyde leading the way with 42.
From a game analysis perspective, the 2018-19 run has seen New Zealand turn the ball over less, concede fewer penalties, kick more restarts long, create less rucks and score more tries from their own half than their 2014-15 counterparts.
The current crop of players have also been more ruthless in attack, showing their ability to capitalise on turnovers to score without passing and also to hold onto the ball for longer periods. However, with opposition defences having improved since 2015, they are now scoring 12 per cent fewer tries without a breakdown occurring and five per cent fewer tries from restarts.
They have also enjoyed an extra 25 seconds of possession per game than their 2014-15 counterparts, dominating possession against all bar one of the 15 teams they have faced – Ireland being the exception having enjoyed 53 per cent possession against the Black Ferns Sevens in their three meetings in this period.
Results in current 36-match winning run
|22/04/2018 - Quarter-final||China||50-0||Kitakyushu|
|22/04/2018 - Semi-final||Australia||17-12||Kitakyushu|
|22/04/2018 - Final||France||24-12||Kitakyushu|
|13/05/2018 - Quarter-final||England||17-12||Langford|
|13/05/2018 - Semi-final||USA||33-10||Langford|
|13/05/2018 - Final||Australia||46-0||Langford|
|09/06/2018 - Quarter-final||Spain||38-0||Paris|
|09/06/2018 - Semi-final||Canada||34-7||Paris|
|10/06/2018 - Final||Australia||33-7||Paris|
|21/10/2018 - Quarter-final||Ireland||34-7||Glendale|
|21/10/2018 - Semi-final||Canada||28-19||Glendale|
|21/10/2018 - Final||USA||33-7||Glendale|
|30/11/2018 - Quarter-final||Russia||31-0||Dubai|
|30/11/2018 - Semi-final||USA||22-0||Dubai|
|30/11/2018 - Final||Canada||26-14||Dubai|
|01/02/2019||Papua New Guinea||38-5||Sydney|
|02/02/2019 - Quarter-final||Canada||17-7||Sydney|
|03/02/2019 - Semi-final||USA||29-5||Sydney|
|03/02/2019 - Final||Australia||34-10||Sydney|
Results in record 37-match winning run
|06/04/2014 - Quarter-final||France||42-7||Guangzhou|
|06/04/2014 - Semi-final||Fiji||26-0||Guangzhou|
|06/04/2014 - Final||Australia||26-12||Guangzhou|
|17/05/2014 - Quarter-final||Russia||36-0||Amsterdam|
|17/05/2014 - Semi-final||England||26-10||Amsterdam|
|17/05/2014 - Final||Australia||29-12||Amsterdam|
|05/12/2014 - Quarter-final||Russia||19-17||Dubai|
|05/12/2014 - Semi-final||France||31-10||Dubai|
|05/12/2014 - Final||Australia||19-17||Dubai|
|08/02/2015 - Quarter-final||USA||28-17||Sao Paulo|
|08/02/2015 - Semi-final||France||12-5||Sao Paulo|
|08/02/2015 - Final||Australia||17-10||Sao Paulo|
|15/03/2015 - Quarter-final||Brazil||36-0||Atlanta|
|15/03/2015 - Semi-final||Canada||24-22||Atlanta|
|15/03/2015 - Final||USA||50-12||Atlanta|
|19/04/2015 - Quarter-final||Fiji||26-5||Langford|
|19/04/2015 - Semi-final||England||24-14||Langford|
|19/04/2015 - Final||Russia||29-10||Langford|