With less than a day to go until the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens gets underway at the Mikuni World Stadium, we've picked seven players to light up the fourth round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019.
GHISLAINE LANDRY (CANADA)
Canada's inspirational captain reaches a personal milestone this weekend in Kitakyushu, a tournament she was forced to watch from the sidelines 12 months ago after being ruled out through injury the day before. Landry, the leading points scorer for the 2019 series as well as of all-time, plays her 30th series tournament and will be determined to help Canada end their two-year title drought. Put simply, this 'pocket-rocket' is the player who makes Canada tick, a calming presence on one hand but blessed with the vision and pace that are a lethal combination in rugby sevens.
PATRICIA GARCIA (SPAIN)
Another diminutive play-maker, Garcia joins Landry in the select club of players to have played in 30 series tournaments and will hope to take her try-scoring form from Spain's recent Rugby Europe Women's Championship 2019 title success as she switches back to sevens, having scored a hat-trick in the final defeat of the Netherlands last month. She needs only two tries to become the first Spanish player to score 50 on the series. Spain were surprise semi-finalists in Kitakyushu a year ago and if Las Leonas are to repeat that feat then they will need Garcia to be at her sniping best in a difficult pool that sees them paired with both Australia and Canada.
CHIHARU NAKAMURA (JAPAN)
The heartbeat of the Sakura Sevens and their most experienced player in the squad with 15 series tournaments to her name, Nakamura (pictured) will be a key figure if Japan are to bounce back from the disappointment of failing to regain core team status in the series qualifier earlier this month – bowing out at the semi-final stage to Scotland – by winning a first match at the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens after 10 previous defeats. A tireless worker who leads by example in both defence and attack, it will be a surprise if Nakamura doesn't feature near the top of the DHL Impact Player standings on home soil.
KRISTI KIRSHE (USA)
A player who will no longer be able to slip under the radar after an impressive debut tournament in Sydney, where she scored five tries to help USA claim the bronze medal. Her performance was all the more remarkable when you consider she has been playing rugby for barely a year, having made the switch from soccer to rugby only after leaving college. Her background in soccer, basketball and lacrosse has developed good hand-eye co-ordination and a tactical mindset which have made her transition to rugby an easier one and allowed her to play to her strengths in pressure situations.
ALENA MIKHALTSOVA (RUSSIA)
The Russian captain was on fire in Kitakyushu last year, scoring 11 tries – including a record-equalling five in one match against England – and claiming the DHL Impact Player accolade for the second time in three rounds of the 2018 series. Russia are a shadow of themselves when Mikhaltsova isn't pulling the strings and popping up out wide to finish off tries from anywhere. Determined in defence and with no shortage of pace or the vision to turn nothing into key scores, Russia will need their talisman on top form if they are to reach a first Cup semi-final this season.
ELLIA GREEN (AUSTRALIA)
You didn't have to be watching the action unfold on the pitch in Sydney to know that Green had the ball in her hands as the noise level ratcheted up several notches in anticipation of what the Australian flyer would do to unlock opposing defences. She won't have that home support in Kitakyushu, a tournament she won't have fond memories of from last year after she ruptured her ACL at Mikuni World Stadium, but with her pace and power she is still one of the deadliest finishers on the series. How long will she have to wait to score the two tries she needs to join team-mate Emilee Cherry in the 100 try club?
DHYS FALAEFAGA (NEW ZEALAND)
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the 18-year-old after being handed a Black Ferns Sevens contract for the rest of the year and selected for her first world series event with injuries having ruled out a few familiar names. A player predicted to have a very bright future in the game, she can only benefit from being in a professional set-up full-time around a group of players who have won their last 36 matches on the series. How much game-time she gets in Kitakyushu remains to be seen, but she'll be determined to make every second count having realised her first dream of wearing the black jersey.