The final squads have been announced for the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens at Mikuni World Stadium, which takes place in the Japanese city on 20-21 April.


The tournament is the fourth of six rounds on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019 with New Zealand leading the series with 60 points after winning in Glendale, Dubai and Sydney.

The top four teams in the 2019 series will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia currently occupying the coveted spots.

New Zealand are also on the verge of setting a new record for consecutive victories on the series, arriving in Japan one win shy of their own benchmark of 37 consecutive wins set between April 2014 and May 2015.


The Black Ferns Sevens are missing a number of key players as they bid for a third successive Kitakyushu title with World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year 2018 Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton and Theresa Fitzpatrick among those absent through injury or illness.

However, captain Sarah Hirini is looking forward to seeing the likes of series debutants Rhiarna Ferris and 18-year-old Dhys Faleafaga as well as the returning Chey Robins-Reti in action on the series.

"It is different [the team] and everyone is talking about how new it is, but for us we have been training together for a long time now," she said.

"These girls have been in our programme for ages, they know exactly what is expected of them. For us older ones that have been around for a while it is actually just about helping them and easing them into that world series culture.

"It is going to be amazing for them to get their opportunity this weekend because I can't wait for the rest of the world to see how much talent they have and how hard they have been working over the last couple of months."

Ferris and Faleafaga are two of nine players who will make their HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series debuts in Kitakyushu this weekend, three of them for host nation Japan who are the invitational team joining the 11 core teams for this round.

Rinka Matsuda, Mele Yua Havili Kagawa and Riho Kurogi all played in the series qualifier in Hong Kong earlier this month, when Japan missed out on securing core team status for the 2020 series after losing to Scotland in the semi-finals, but make their series debut in a squad which has only two players with 10 or more series tournaments to their names.

Canada, runners-up in Kitakyushu in 2017, meanwhile hand a series debut to Keyara Wardley, a member of their U18 team that won the bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires last October, and also welcome back a familiar face in Karen Paquin, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist, for what will be her first series tournament since Clermont-Ferrand in 2016.   

The action gets underway at Mikuni World Stadium at 10:30 local time (GMT+9) on Saturday with Ireland taking on Fiji. 
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